By Christian Caple The News Tribune
SEATTLE — This is the Dustin Ackley the Seattle Mariners have been waiting for.
And with the outfielder’s newfound success in the batter’s box has come a new position in the lineup, one that manager Lloyd McClendon believes best suits Ackley, so long as he sustains the approach that has led to a most productive July.
In his second consecutive start in the No. 2 spot — his fourth this season — Ackley collected another three hits against Baltimore on Sunday, after hitting two doubles on Saturday.
Sunday’s effort boosted Ackley’s July batting average to .375 (27-for-72 in 21 games), and bumped his season average to .251, highest it’s been since May. It was .214 on June 30.
“That’s what we’ve been looking for all year,” McClendon said of Ackley’s recent pace. “He’s aggressive, he’s attacking the baseball and he’s using the entire field to hit. If he does that he’s a dangerous guy. I think he can sustain that.”
And McClendon thinks Ackley’s skill set lends itself particularly well to the No. 2 spot in the batting order.
“He runs well. You can do a lot of things with him,” McClendon said. “He’s got some power. Certainly can hit a lot of doubles, and he hits left-handers. I think it’s an ideal spot. It didn’t work out earlier in the year, but I think he’s a lot more comfortable with where he is now as a hitter. I think it’s working out great.”
In his first two starts as the Mariners’ No. 2 hitter — both in April — Ackley went 0-for-8 with six strikeouts, and was moved down again in the lineup.
Now, McClendon said, he appears to be pressing less. And hitting more.
“I think he probably put a little bit too much pressure on himself the first time,” McClendon said. “I can’t speak for him, but maybe he felt my expectations as to what I thought he should be in that spot were higher than they really were. But I think he’s comfortable in his own skin now and he’s feeling good about what he’s doing, and I think he’s more apt to handle it.”
Ackley says he’s handling it by not paying it any mind.
“I’m trying not to think about what spot I’m in or where I’m at, but yeah, I felt good at the plate,” Ackley said, “and I’m just going to try to keep it going.”
First RBI for Taylor
Rookie shortstop Chris Taylor, selected from Triple-A Tacoma on Thursday, picked up his first big-league RBI on Sunday when he ripped a two-out double – also a career first – down the left field line in the second inning.
“I was just looking for a good pitch to hit,” Taylor said. “I saw him up in the zone. He left that second breaking ball up a little bit, I was able to get a barrel on it, and luckily it went down the line.”
Taylor, 23, finished Sunday’s game 2-for-4, and is 3-for-8 since being called up.
“There’s still a little bit of the jitters, but I’m feeling more comfortable the more I play out there,” Taylor said. “I try to look at the positives and move forward from there.”
“He’s an impressive young man,” McClendon said. “He knows what he’s doing at the plate. He’s pretty smooth in the field. I like what I see.”
The Mariners are off Monday before beginning a six-game road trip against the Cleveland Indians and the Orioles. Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma (8-5, 3.09 ERA) is scheduled to pitch on Tuesday. Right-hander Trevor Bauer (4-5, 3.93) is slated to pitch for the Indians.