HOUSTON — A weekend trip to Minute Maid Park is just what Seattle Mariners outfielder Dustin Ackley needed to break out of a September mini-slide.
Ackley hit two homers Friday, one to each field, in helping the Mariners to a 10-5 victory over Houston in the series opener. He also had a walk and scored three runs.
“For some reason,” he said, “this park feels good. The infield and outfield are fast, the dimensions are a lot more doable than other parks we play in.
“The ball I hit to left for the homer (which tied the game in the third inning), I’ve hit some of those balls in Seattle and they’re easily caught. So it gets your confidence level up.”
Ackley arrived at Minute Maid in a 2-for-16 skid over five games since returning from a sore left ankle that surfaced Sept. 6 at Texas.
“I would say probably (the last few days) are kind of the first times I haven’t thought about it,” he admitted. “Just going on and off the field going after balls in the gaps, running the bases or whatever, it’s nice to not have to worry about it.”
Manager Lloyd McClendon remains cautious; he chose to rest Ackley on Saturday against Houston left-hander Dallas Keuchel with the series set to conclude with a Sunday afternoon game.
“You’ve got to realize we travel by plane,” McClendon said, “and that usually causes problems in itself when you have a bum ankle or something (similar). It’s a quick turnaround (for Sunday’s game).
“And he was limping a little bit (Friday) night. That concerned me a little bit. I really want him for (Sunday’s) game. And he doesn’t hit this guy (Keuchel) very well at all. It’s a chance to get him off his ankle.
“And then we do have that turf (for four games next week in Toronto). That scares the heck out of me.”
Still, Ackley’s career-long success at Minute Maid is hard to ignore. He is batting .390 (23-for-59) in 16 career games here with a .439 on-base percentage and a .610 slugging percentage.
Crunch it a little more: Ackley has a TOPS+ of 207 at Minute Maid, which measures a player’s OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) relative to his total OPS.
In short: Ackley is more than twice as productive at Minute Maid as he is overall throughout his career.
“Sometimes you come to a park,” he said, “and it’s just one of those places where you get a good feeling about it. That’s pretty much the way it was (on Friday). And definitely my foot and ankle feeling a lot better is huge, too.
“I don’t have to try to overcompensate for something that’s not there. It was just an all-around good day for everybody.”