ARLINGTON, Texas — A year ago, Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager faded badly over the final two months — batting just .183 with five homers and 19 RBIs in 55 games in August and September.
This season still has 20 games remaining, but Seager — so far — is reversing that trend: batting .276 with seven homers and 22 RBIs in 34 games.
“You learn about yourself,” he said. “I know what I did wrong at the end of last year. I want to stay away from that. You want to have something where, if you start to go bad, you can go back to something.”
That foundation is also sparking Seager, 26, to the best season of his four-year career. His club-leading totals of 23 homers and 88 RBIs are already career highs. His .280 average, if maintained, would also be a career best.
“He’s been, if not our offensive MVP, pretty close to it,” first baseman Logan Morrison said. “He’s in there, and the plays he makes on defense are unbelievable, and he makes them look routine. No flash. Just production.
“Whenever we need a pickup, he’s usually there for us.”
Manager Lloyd McClendon also points Seager’s defense as an unappreciated strength.
“He’s been great offensively,” McClendon said, “but I’ve been saying all year he should seriously be considered for a Gold Glove as well. What he does on the other side of the ball is just as important.
“He’s turned into a complete player.”
Seager rates a plus-25 in total zone total runs saved above average, a metric based on plays made or not made. That leads all American League players — not just third basemen.
A year ago, Seager graded out at minus-4.
The general view, too, is that Seager wore down a year ago, which is is why his late-season production plummeted. He disputes that cause-and-effect.
“That wasn’t the case at all,” he said. “Physically, I was fine. I was just in a bad (hitting) position. I tried something different last year that wasn’t a good move for me. It wasn’t fatigue.”
The difference, again, is that foundation.
“I’ve learned over the last couple of years,” he said, “that there are little keys that I’ve got to get to (in his hitting approach). If I’m not going as well, I can look at the film and check those (keys).
“I’ve learned a lot about what positions I want to be in physically. If something feels a little funny, I can watch the film and make a quicker adjustment.”
Good thing. Because Seager, who has played every inning since May 11, isn’t likely to get much time off over the final 20 games.
“I was joking with him the other day,” McClendon said. “I said, `You never ask for a day off.’ He said, `Oh, is that what I’m supposed to do?’ I said, `It’s too late now.’”
Left fielder Dustin Ackley doesn’t believe his sore left ankle, which forced him to leave Saturday’s game, is related to his long-troublesome bone spurs.
Ackley hopes to be available Monday when the Mariners open a three-game series against Houston at Safeco Field.
“I think it will take a day to get back going,” said Ackley, who sat out Sunday’s series finale at Texas. “It already feels better than it did (Saturday) night. I’m hoping to (rest) it today, and (Monday), I’ll be ready to roll.”
Ackley characterized the problem as a “progression” and not the result of any single play — such as his sliding catch near the foul line for the final out in the third inning Saturday on Leonys Martin’s slicing drive.”
“ I’ve been running a lot on it,” he said. “Then the slide (for a catch). It just stiffened up to the point where it couldn’t get loose again. I couldn’t really run — at least not like I’m capable of (running).
“At that point, I thought it would be a good thing to get off of it.”
Chris Denorfia started Sunday in left field.
Tentative plans call for the Mariners to activate outfielder Michael Saunders from the disabled list prior to Monday’s game against the Astros.
Saunders spent much of the last week working out at the club’s year-round facility in Peoria, Ariz., in an effort to regain his strength and timing after losing 12 pounds in late August due to a viral infection.
The illness occurred just as Saunders was nearing the conclusion of a rehab assignment at Triple-A Tacoma for a strained left oblique suffered July 10 on a swing in the eighth inning of a 4-2 loss to Minnesota.
Prior to the injury, Saunders batted .276 with six homers and 28 RBIs in 65 games.
McClendon remains non-committal on whether Chris Young will remain in the rotation after yielding two unearned runs Saturday while throwing 95 pitches in five innings against the Rangers.
At minimum, it appears Young will be pushed back a few days prior to his next start.
The Mariners list Felix Hernandez, Roenis Elias and Hisashi Iwakuma as their starters for the upcoming three-game series against Houston.
Young’s next turn in the cycle would come Thursday, which is an open date. McClendon has already confirmed he plans to keep James Paxton and Hernandez on regular schedule next Friday and Saturday against Oakland.
McClendon said he “isn’t sure” about a starter for next Sunday’s series finale against the A’s at Safeco Field. If not Young, it could be Elias, who will be available on full rest, or Taijuan Walker.
The Mariners and every other club plan to release their 2015 schedule at 10 a.m. Pacific time Monday.
The interleague cycle has the Mariners and other American League West clubs matched against the National League West.
It was 12 years ago Monday — Sept. 8, 2002 — that the Mariners, after closer Kazuhiro Sasaki blew a three-run lead in the ninth inning, scored eight runs in the 11th for a 16-9 victory at Kansas City.
John Olerud broke an 8-8 tie with a three-run homer against Blake Stein before Ben Davis and Mike Cameron hit homers later in the inning against Kris Wilson.
Those Royals could score but rarely scored enough.
The Mariners open a six-game homestand at 7:10 p.m. Monday with the first of three games against Houston at Safeco Field.
Right-hander Felix Hernandez (14-5 with a 2.18 ERA) will oppose Astros right-hander Brad Peacock (4-8, 5.01). Root Sports will televise the game.
The series continues with game Tuesday night and Wednesday night against Houston. After an open date Thursday, the Mariners conclude the homestand with three weekend games against Oakland.