Ackley continues offensive tear
SEATTLE -- Dustin Ackley was lost.
In the month of June, the left fielder batted .165 (13-for-79) to drop his average to a season-low .214. Seattle's No. 2 overall pick in the 2009 MLB First-Year Player Draft wasn't aggressive at the plate and constantly fell behind in counts. On too many occasions, he rolled over on hittable pitches. The result was often a weak ground-ball out to the second baseman.
He wasn't hitting for much power, either. Fans were growing impatient. There was speculation he might be demoted to Triple-A Tacoma for the second year in a row.
Then came July.
Ackley entered Sunday hitting .358 (24-for-67) with five RBIs, eight doubles and an .854 OPS in 20 games this month. In Saturday's 4-3 win over the Orioles, he went 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles and two runs scored while raising his batting average to .245.
"Lately I've been working up the middle and pitches away to left field," Ackley said earlier this week. "That's really important -- especially when you're getting pitched that way.
"This is the guy that I envisioned him being," manager Lloyd McClendon said Saturday. "He's on a roll and he'll keep it going the rest of the year."
This isn't new territory for the 26-year-old North Carolina native. Ackley has hit well for stretches since making his big league debut in June 2011. Last year, he led the Mariners after the All-Star break by batting .304. Over the final 66 games of the regular season, he raised his average 53 points.
So can he sustain his current run?
"I think he can," McClendon said. "Listen, that's what we've been looking for all year. 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."
On Saturday, McClendon moved Ackley to the No. 2 spot in the lineup after Endy Chavez was a late scratch due to a jammed pinky finger on his left hand.
Back in April, Ackley went 0-for-8 with six strikeouts in two games batting second. McClendon almost immediately moved him back down in the order. But the first-year Mariners manager said the pair spoke recently about revisiting the possibility of Ackley moving back to the No. 2 spot, adding that Ackley seems better equipped to handle it because he's more comfortable with his approach.
"I think he probably put a little bit too much pressure on himself the first time. 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," McClendon said. "But I think he's comfortable in his own skin now.