ANAHEIM, Calif. — No matter what the numbers suggest or the spray charts indicate, Mariners outfielder Seth Smith, long viewed as a dead-pull hitter, has not changed his approach in an attempt to beat defensive overshifts by opposing teams.
"No, not really," Smith said. "There are times when they’re working you the other way. It’s not trying to beat the shift. You’re just trying to take what the pitcher gives you.
"Sometimes, you need to hit the ball that way. Sometimes, you need to pull it."
Opposing clubs typically shift their shortstop to the right side of second base against Smith in an effort to counter his perceived tendency to pull the ball.
But only three of Smith’s 12 hits this season have been to right field in compiling a .308 average that is 45 points above his career norm. Further, he’s only made eight outs in 49 plate appearances on balls hit to the right side of the field.
"He seems like our shift-beater," manager Scott Servais said. "From early in spring, Seth was taking the ball the other way, taking his hits by using the whole field…I hope they keep playing him that way."
Smith said his approach this season is not new.
"Early in my career," he said "I was dead pull. The last few years, I’ve been going that way a little more. But it’s early. I’m just trying to figure things out. So it’s not worth getting into it too much."
Even so, if Smith’s current trends continue, opposing defenses figure to adjust.
"Well, we’ll see," he said. "There’s going to be eight guys over there regardless of where they decide to put them. And one behind me.
"Ultimately, it’s too hard manipulate what you’re trying to do up there. It’s just you versus the pitcher, and you’re trying to see what happens after that."
TOPPLING THE KING
Angels outfielder Mike Trout offers simple advice for those looking for success against Mariners ace Felix Hernandez.
"I was just trying to get a pitch to hit," Trout said when asked about his two-run homer Saturday that lifted the Angels to a 4-2 victory. "Just stay up the middle. If you don’t hit that pitch or foul it off, he’s got you in a hole."
It doesn’t always work. Trout has 21 career strikeouts against Hernandez. Only Torii Hunter, now retired, has more with 22. But Trout is also batting .368 in his career against Hernandez (25-for-68) with five homers.
Then again…he is Mike Trout.
Yes, it’s still April, but Major League Baseball kicked off its balloting Sunday for the All-Star Game, which is July 12 at Petco Park in San Diego.
The Mariners have nine players listed on the American League ballot — one at each position. The ballot contains Adam Lind but not Dae-Ho Lee at first base, and Seth Smith but not Franklin Gutierrez in the outfield.
Nelson Cruz is on the ballot as a designated hitter.
Fans can vote a maximum of 35 times, including five times in an 24-hour period, through 8:59 p.m. Pacific time on June 30.
It was a long (but successful) Saturday night for Lo-A Clinton, which swept a double-header from visiting Cedar Rapids (Twins) by scores of 2-1 and 3-0.
The opener went 18 innings — and 5 hours, 4 minutes — before James Alfonso’s RBI single scored Braden Bishop from second base.
The LumberKings completed the sweep with a seven-inning shutout behind Art Warren and Darin Gilles in the nightcap, which required just 1 hour, 52 minutes.
Clinton is off to an 11-6 start after limping through last season at 46-93.
It was 35 years ago Monday — April 25, 1981 — that Mariners manager Maury Wills tried to cheat in an effort to help his pitchers by having the grounds crew at the Kingdome mark the batter’s box a foot closer to the mound.
Oakland manager Billy Martin wasn’t fooled and notified umpire Bill Kunkel. His ploy exposed, Wills received a two-game suspension.
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 Taijuan Walker (1-0 with a 1.50 ERA) will start against former Mariners right-hander Doug Fister (1-2, 5.94). The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710 ESPN.
The series against the Astros continues through Wednesday. After an open date on Thursday, Kansas City arrives for a three-game weekend series.
Note a time change for the start of Saturday’s game against the Royals. First pitch is now scheduled for 7:10 p.m., one hour earlier then originally planned.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners