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Walk this way: Mariners racking up free passes

OAKLAND -- While it is the A's who are known for their patient Moneyball approach to hitting and high value on walks and on-base percentage, the Mariners turned the tables in the first two games and drew a Major League-leading 12 bases on balls.

The Brewers had the second most walks in the Majors with nine through their first two games.

Justin Smoak and Brendan Ryan were tied for the American League lead with three walks entering Wednesday, and in Tuesday night's 7-1 win, the Mariners drew eight free passes, which equaled their season high for 2012.

It's all quite a turnabout for a team that walked once in the first two games last season. Both Ryan and Smoak didn't draw their third walk until the 10th game last year and Smoak's fourth walk didn't come until six games after that.

Smoak said the walks are no coincidence but rather a sign of being more ready to identify and hit good pitches.

"I feel like the end of last year and during this spring, I've just been seeing the ball better," he said. "It's just being in a better position to hit, being ready to react to anything and I feel like I'm where I want to be."

Ironically, Smoak said he now feels more aggressive at the plate.

"I feel like when you're aggressive, you're going to lay off pitches you shouldn't swing at because you're ready to hit and you know what's a good one to swing at," he said. "That's how I'd always been before, but the last couple years I got a little passive trying to wait for something specific instead of being in there ready to hit. I feel like it helps you lay off those borderline pitches or hard sliders or good changeups down in the dirt."

Smoak went 0-for-3 on Tuesday but hit the ball hard twice -- on a loud foul down the left-field line -- and drew a bases-loaded walk that showed the ultimate patience.

"No doubt," he said with a grin. "Bases loaded right there, you're ready to swing as soon as you step into the box. I was ready to hit, but there was nothing good to hit for four straight pitches. That's how it goes. Take 'em any way you can get 'em."

Greg Johns is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog.
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