Mariners dig the long ball

  • Sat Jul 28th, 2012 10:33pm
  • Sports

By Larry LaRue The News Tribune

SEATTLE — The Seattle Mariners knew when the 2012 season opened they didn’t have a middle-of-the-order power hitter — at least not yet.

While they’ve waited to see if anyone could develop into that hitter, the Mariners have surprised themselves and their fans by producing four hitters who have managed at least 10 home runs.

A year ago, the Mariners only had three.

Justin Smoak, now with the Tacoma Rainiers, leads the team with 13 home runs this season, and Kyle Seager has 11. Michael Saunders hit his 10th against the Yankees this week.

And on Saturday, rookie catcher Jesus Montero hit his 10th.

“I’m still learning,” Montero admitted. “I get excited and go after bad pitches sometimes. I’m trying to be more patient, wait for my pitch, but it’s hard.”

It’s unlikely any of those Mariners will reach 20 homers this season, although a few teammates could join them in double figures. Catcher Miguel Olivo, who had 18 a year ago, has seven now.

Casper Wells and Dustin Ackley have six each.

Wedge on leadership

When the topic of leadership is dropped into a conversation, manager Eric Wedge is never at a loss for words.

“Leadership starts with your DNA, it’s in your personality or it’s not. You get it or you don’t, but you can’t teach it or force it on anyone,” he said. “You’ve got to care.

“It’s not just rare in baseball, it’s rare, period. It takes strength and courage. We have it in Felix Hernandez and Kevin Millwood, but you need it from an everyday player, and we don’t have that yet.

“Someone may develop into a leader here, and if they do, we want to help bring it out.”

Short hops

Montero isn’t just hitting well against the Royals, he’s killing them in 2012. The rookie is batting .609 with three doubles, two home runs and 10 RBI in six games against them. … Tom Wilhelmsen’s run at closer continued Saturday with his 13th save. Over his last 25 appearances, he’s saved 13-of-14 opportunities, gone 2-1 and posted a 0.61 earned-run average. In 291/3 innings, he’s struck out 34 batters. … Seattle has won nine of it’s last 13 games, with six of those wins coming in seven games against Kansas City. … Carp is starting to remind the Mariners what a run-producer he was the second half of 2011, driving in runs in each of the last four games — matching the longest such streak by a Mariner all season. Kyle Seager had a four-game stretch the first week of July. … Casper Wells has 13 multi-hit games this season, and 10 of those have come since he was recalled from Tacoma on June 13th. … The Royals lost one of their more productive hitters, Mike Moustakas, who strained his right knee making a play at third base. He left the game after the third inning. … Saturday’s 4-3 win was the 51st Mariners game this season — out of 103 played — that was decided by one or two runs.