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Expect the unexpected from Ibanez and the Mariners

By Shannon Drayer

An 11-4 pounding of the Red Sox is a great – if not unexpected – way to start a homestand. The Mariners found success up and down the lineup with continued encouraging play from Justin Smoak, who went 3 for 4 and knocked in two runners in scoring position and Michael Saunders checking in with two doubles.

Then there was Raul Ibanez doing what Raul Ibanez does these days. On Sunday in Cincinnati I joked to a colleague that Ibanez was overdue as he stepped to the plate. It had been a full game since he had last hit a home run. I was one game off. Ibanez’s 22nd home run came Monday night against Boston.

Raul Ibanez, 41, has hit 32 home runs since his 40th birthday, which is four more than he hit in his 20s. (AP)

That home run tied him with Darrell Evans for the fourth-most home runs in age-41 season or over. He is chasing baseball history in the 40-and-older category, but how about his own history? When he hit No. 22, Jonah Keri of Grantland tweeted this:

“Raul Ibanez has 22 home runs. He’s hit more home runs in his 40s than he did in his 20s.”

He wasn’t joking. A quick look at the numbers showed that Ibanez hit 28 home runs in 371 games before he turned 30 and has hit 32 in just 156 games since turning 40. This somewhat illustrates the ridiculousness of what he is doing now but also is a reminder of what it took for Ibanez to get here.

You may remember his first go-round here in Seattle as a youngster who was up and down with the club for a couple of years. In truth, he wasn’t exactly a youngster. Ibanez made his MLB debut with the Mariners in 1996 at age 24 after spending nearly five years in the minor leagues. He was given all of six at-bats in four games that year.

Over the next four years he got a grand total of 473 at-bats. He then joined the Royals at the age of 29 in 2001 and did not play his first full season until the next year at age 30.

If he was a late bloomer at 30, what is he now?

Definitely a surprise. Monday’s home run was his eighth in his last 13 games. It also was his eighth off a left-handed pitcher. Coming into the season the thought was he could best be utilized mainly against right-handed pitching. Add to the list of surprises that he is hitting lefties.

Against righties this year in 177 at-bats he is hitting .254/.305/.536/.842. Against lefties in 72 at-bats his line is .264/.303/.597/.900. That wasn’t part of the plan.

It has been fun to watch and even more fun to see others start to come around as well. Monday’s game would appear to get this club one step closer to the corner.

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