The first baseman had two more hits on Sunday to tie Raul Ibanez’s mark, which was set in 2004. After a tough start to the season, Valencia was one of the club’s top hitters in May.
Danny Valencia put his name into the Mariners’ record book on Sunday afternoon. But it’s a record he’ll have to share.
Coming into the series finale against the Rays, Valencia had hits in seven consecutive at-bats.
In his first plate appearance on Sunday, he punched a single into left-center field to make it eight consecutive hits. In his second trip to the plate, he reached on an infield single, tying the club record of nine consecutive hits set by Raul Ibanez in 2004.
Valencia didn’t get the record-breaking 10th, though he probably should’ve had a walk and another crack at it. After getting up 3-0 in the count, Valencia watched two borderline pitches get called for strikes by home plate umpire Lance Barksdale. He popped up to first on the 3-2 pitch.
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Still, the difficulty of notching nine straight hits is something that manager Scott Servais couldn’t fathom.
“Somebody asked Edgar (Martinez) in the dugout, ‘you were pretty good Edgar, did you ever do that?’ and Edgar couldn’t say that he’s done that,” Servais said. “Good for Danny. When it’s going good, you have to ride it as long as you can and Danny has, and he’s still not 100 percent with the wrist. As crazy as it sounds, it may have helped him because he’s not trying to do too much. He’s just trying to put the bat on the ball.”
Valencia got off to an abysmal start to the season, hitting .181 (13 for 81) with a .565 on-base plus slugging percentage in April. His struggles reached the point where the Mariners briefly brought up first baseman Daniel Vogelbach to split time with him at first base.
But when the calendar turned to May, Valencia picked it up, hitting .348 (39 for 112) with five doubles, a triple, four homers and 21 RBI over his last 29 games, raising his batting average to .283 with a .778 OPS.
“I’m getting good pitches to hit and not missing them,” he said. “I’m having a good approach up there and trying not to do too much.”
But to Servais, it’s also returning to the hitter that Valencia was with the A’s and not trying to be something he isn’t.
“When you start taking BP every day in spring training with (Robinson) Cano and (Nelson) Cruz, and trying to hit just as far as they do and all the other things that can lead to, that’s not always good,” Servais said. “Danny’s got plenty of power, but it’s more important to be a good hitter.”
The club kept on Valencia about not becoming so pull heavy in his approach
“For me, Danny stopped trying to do too much,” Servais sad. “He started taking the ball the other way. You see a lot of hits going to right field and right center. I remember playing against him last year; he beat our shift against him three or four times in RBI situations and it just stuck out to me. And then the home runs come and the extra base hits come. He’s doing a much better job of using the whole field.”
Gamel trying first
Outfielder Ben Gamel has been taking ground balls at first base at the request of the Mariners. He hasn’t played there since youth baseball. But it’s something the organization wants to him to work on to become more versatile.
“It’s something that we actually talked about at the end of spring training,” Servais said. “It’s just another tool to put in his bag. It’s something he could use to help him get on the field at different points. He should be able to do it.”
Gamel is all for being in the lineup.
“Whatever I can do to stay up here and help this team win,” he said, “I’m willing to do it.”
But don’t expect Gamel to start platooning with Valencia.
“If we get in a lopsided game and we want to throw him over there, we can do it,” Servais said. “It allows us to get some other guys off their feet. Slow down. No timeline. None of that stuff.”
• Mitch Haniger (strained oblique) is scheduled to begin his rehab assignment on Tuesday with Class AAA Tacoma. He’ll join Felix Hernandez, who is starting for the Rainiers.