HOUSTON -- While the Mariners offense has been on the rise the last month, left fielder Dustin Ackley has been one hitter still searching for answers. But the former first-round Draft pick went 3-for-4 with a walk in Tuesday's 13-2 win and said that was just what the doctor ordered.
"It's just about getting yourself to the point where you step to the plate and you don't have to worry where your hands are or where this or that is," Ackley said. "You are just up there, relaxed and comfortable. That's the big thing. When it comes down to it, it's more mental than anything. When you step up there and you don't quite feel right or don't have that confidence, it's hard to get a hit. When you are up there feeling good and relaxed, it takes all those other things away."
Ackley was hitting .267 in mid-May, but saw his average plummet to .214 with a rugged June, during which he batted just .165. But he got July off to a better start with his first three-hit game since May 11.
"To feel good and have the results to go behind it is pretty big," he said. "That's just kind of the day I needed, to be honest with you."
And manager Lloyd McClendon says the Mariners need Ackley's bat to awaken if they intend to continue their recent surge.
"We need him to be productive for us to continue to be successful," McClendon said. "It's really remarkable we've had the run we've had and he hasn't done much. We need him to step it up and pick up his production."
Seager making claim for spot in All-Star Game
HOUSTON -- As fan voting comes to a close on Thursday, Robinson Cano is pretty much assured of earning his sixth All-Star berth to become the Mariners' first position player to make the Midsummer Classic since 2010.
But there's another Mariner infielder knocking on that All-Star door, even if not everyone has heard of him yet. While Kyle Seager hasn't even been in the top five in voting for the American League's starting third baseman, the 26-year-old is putting up some of the best numbers in baseball in recent weeks.
"I think he should have strong consideration," manager Lloyd McClendon said. "You could argue, his numbers are as good as any third baseman in the league. But listen, everybody can't play in that game. It's just the way it is."
The Mariners know what they have in Seager, however, and Cano said his young teammate is just starting to tap his potential.
"He can be really good," Cano said. "Trust me. What is it, 2014 now? You will see in the next three years how good he is going to be."
Seager has been one of the best players in baseball the past month, hitting .409 in his past 17 games and winning his second AL Player of the Week honor this season.
Whether that surge vaults him onto his first All-Star team remains to be seen as American and National League rosters will be announced Sunday at 4 p.m. PT on ESPN for the July 15 game in Minneapolis.
Seager's numbers continue climbing by the day, as he's now hitting .279/.350/.498 with 21 doubles, 13 home runs and 58 RBIs in 81 games going into Wednesday's action. Oakland's Josh Donaldson, the runaway leader at third base in fan voting, is batting .245/.325/.459 with 12 doubles, 18 home runs and 61 RBIs in 82 games.
Among all AL third basemen, Seager is first in extra-base hits, second in doubles, home runs, RBIs, batting average, slugging percentage and OPS, third in on-base percentage, hits and stolen bases and fourth in runs scored.
Donaldson has a 3.5 WAR, with Seager at 3.3. The next closest AL third baseman is Adrian Beltre at 2.2. Beltre is currently second in fan voting.
Fans can cast their votes for starters at MLB.com -- online or on a mobile device -- using the 2014 All-Star Game MLB.com Ballot Sponsored by Experian until Thursday at 8:59 p.m. PT.
The rest of the AL squad will be determined by a vote of the league's players and by selection of All-Star manager John Farrell, with Mariners pitchers Felix Hernandez and Fernando Rodney also prime candidates to land berths along with Cano.
Cano's at-bat has observers doing double-take
HOUSTON -- Standing in the on-deck circle when Robinson Cano bats gives Kyle Seager an excellent view of one of the premier left-handed hitters in the game. And Seager came away amazed again Tuesday after Cano drove a high and outside pitch down the left-field line for a two-run double that ignited Seattle's seven-run sixth inning in a 13-2 victory over the Astros.
"I don't know how he does that," Seager said. "I wish I did. He's special. That's his swing. He stays on the ball, he keeps it down to left. That's a really hard thing to do. It's hard to get the ball out of the air to left field for a left-handed hitter, but he does it so well. He keeps his posture, he's special."
Astros pitcher Jarred Cosart was left shaking his head as well. The right-hander had two outs with runners on first and second in the sixth inning, trailing 3-1, when he threw the full-count fastball to Cano.
"I was one pitch away from a quality start," Cosart said. "I didn't want to give him anything good. The pitch he hit was at his head."
Given a pitch that he couldn't pull, Cano instead just drove it hard to left field. Though the five-time All-Star has hit just six home runs in 80 games, he's hitting .323 with a .379 on-base percentage and has racked up 18 doubles and 51 RBIs.
"I think that's what makes him so good," manager Lloyd McClendon said of Cano's ability to stay within himself, no matter how he's pitched. "People talk about the lack of home run power. I don't think Robbie is panicking at all. When it's all said and done, his home run numbers will be right there. He'll probably finish the first half with 10 home runs and end up with 20 something.
"I certainly think he adjusts to the situation and identifies what guys are trying to do to him in an at-bat. That comes with experience. And talent. He's got the combination of both."
Seager says he's benefited greatly from hitting behind Cano, in part from observing how he doesn't try to do more than is possible with the pitches he's getting.
"You look at the lineup, you look at Cano and he's obviously the focal point," Seager said. "For him to just take what's given, that passes along to everybody else. That's the right approach. That's why he's a superstar."
• Designated hitter Corey Hart went 2-for-3 with a walk for Triple-A Tacoma on Tuesday, putting his batting average at .306 after nine rehab games as he returns from a strained hamstring. First baseman Justin Smoak took the day off and is batting .220 in 11 games as he works back from a strained quad.
"He was a little sore, just body soreness," McClendon said Wednesday. "Probably a little exhausted from grinding it out. Hart is swinging the bat pretty good. He's starting to come on. He's going to play the outfield [Wednesday] and see how healthy he is. We'll go from there and make an evaluation."
Both players likely will stay with Tacoma through the weekend before decisions are made about when they'll rejoin the Mariners when the club returns home Monday.
• With Tuesday's win, the Mariners are 39-25 since ending an eight-game losing streak on April 23. That is the best record in the Majors in that span, a half-game better than Oakland's 38-25.
• How good is the AL West? The A's (plus-131), Mariners (plus-67) and Angels (plus-57) had the top three run differentials in the Majors going into Wednesday's games.