By Gary Hill
The Mariners enthusiastically passed their first lefty test of the season Tuesday night by battering C.J. Wilson for six runs on eight hits.
The six runs the M’s scored off C.J. Wilson is encouraging given their struggles against lefties last season. (AP)
The Mariners struggled mightily in 2013 against left-handed pitching. Their meager .229 batting average was the worst in all of MLB and their .293 on-base percentage and .364 slugging percentage also finished dead last. Wilson himself was a significant contributor to the problem by only allowing seven earned runs in 28 2/3 innings pitched (2.20 ERA) against Seattle.
The Mariners faced 51 left-handed starters a season ago, which was a meaningful chunk of the season given the lack of production. Meanwhile, Seattle maintained a .714 OPS versus right-handed pitchers, which was a respectable 17th in baseball.
It is essential that the Mariners dramatically improve their lefty fate and here are a few primary reasons why they will.
Robinson Cano. The five-time All-Star hits everyone. He hits lefties, righties and even pitchers who throw in a similar fashion to a Jim Leyland reference. Cano crushes righties to the tune of .319/.363/.531, but is solid against left-handed pitchers as well (.290/.340/.790). In 2013, Cano hit .291 with seven home runs and 37 RBIs against lefties.
Corey Hart. The slugger has feasted on left-handed arms throughout his career. He maintains an even .300 batting average against lefties while belting 44 homers and boasting a career .896 OPS.
Brad Miller. In a small MLB sample size Miller handled himself well against lefties by hitting .270 and lacing five extra-base hits. The production vastly outweighs what they were previously getting offensively against lefties.
Justin Smoak. It was a massive struggle for Smoak from the right side. The switch-hitter batted a frigid .192 versus lefties while managing just two of his 20 home runs. Strangely enough, Smoak actually had more success against lefties than righties in 2012. He hit .235 and whacked seven homers and seven doubles. He is a natural right-handed hitter and at least some improvement against lefties seems very likely.
The Mariners are off to a flying start by nearly matching their output against Wilson from a year ago in just one game. They will be tested again Wednesday as lefty Hector Santiago takes to the hill.