Dustin Ackley has always maintained he isn’t a home-run hitter. But in the last few days, he has sure looked like one.
Ackley belted a pair of solo home runs, providing a bright spot in an otherwise frustrating 9-7 loss to the Kansas City Royals on Sunday at Safeco Field. It was his first multihomer game of his career. With a solo homer in his last at-bat in Saturday night’s 3-1 win and solo homers in his first two at-bats, he had homers in three consecutive plate appearances.
“I’ve been seeing the ball pretty well and putting good swings on pitches and not missing them,” he said. “In the past, I’ve just been a little off with some foul balls. Now I’m not missing the pitches I’m supposed to hit.”
Ackley hammered a low-stinger of a line drive over the wall in center field off Royals’ starter Jeremy Guthrie for the Mariners’ first run.
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An inning later, he blasted a solo shot off Guthrie over the wall in deep right-center for his fifth homer of the season.
Both came off breaking balls down in the lower part of the strike zone.
“Sometimes the pitch down in the zone is tough to pull the trigger on,” he said. “But I think when you do, as a left-hander, there is some power down there. You can generate something. I think if I can put some good swings on the ones that are down there that I can hit, I will be all right.”
Ackley believes the homers are products of good at-bats.
“I’m just trying to barrel every ball that I can, whether it’s a home run, double, single, or whatever,” he said. “I’m not really focusing on the results. I’m focusing more on how I’m feeling. I’m just going to come out and keep trying to have the same at-bats.”
• Brad Miller got a much-needed hit. Miller stepped to the plate in the third inning hitless in his previous 19 at-bats. With runners on first and second, he laced a ball into the right-center gap to score two runs.
Miller is still hitting .165. Before the game, manager Lloyd McClendon was adamant that Miller would find his way out of it. A major issue has been swinging at pitches out of the strike zone.
“It’s what happens,” McClendon said. “Hitting is hard enough. When things don’t go good, you expand and swing outside the zone. He’s getting better. He’s starting to take some walks. He’s taking pitches. He’s going deeper into counts. I expect him to break out of this any day. I really like what I’m seeing. I like his approach. I know he’s frustrated. He’s a strong-minded kid. He’s going to be OK.”
• Michael Saunders was out of the lineup after suffering a hyperextended left knee in Saturday night’s win.
“It’s a lot better than expected,” he said. “It’s a little sore, a little swollen, but nothing that’s going to hinder me.”
Taijuan Walker pitched his first bullpen session in over a month, throwing 25 pitches — 19 fastballs, six change-ups — at about a 75 percent effort level. “The arm felt good,” he said. “The arm felt normal. Everything I’ve been working on, I just have to put it on all the mound and sync it all together.”
James Paxton also threw a bullpen session — his second as he recovers from a strained latissimus dorsi (back) muscle. Paxton threw 40 pitches, using his fastball curveball and changeup.