SHANNON DRAYER

Mariners’ Ketel Marte shakes off recent struggles with key sac flies

Jul 9, 2016, 11:26 AM

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Ketel Marte has had his ups and downs at the plate since returning from the DL at the beginning of June, but over the first two games in the series with the Royals he has factored into the Mariners’ run production, hitting a sacrifice fly in each game.

Scoring the runner from third has been a problem for the Mariners, so to see the team cross the plate utilizing small- (and smart-) ball has been a big positive for manager Scott Servais.

“I’m ecstactic about it,” he said. “And the fact that it is Marte is even better because he’s struggled in those areas. Seeing him make the adjustment is really nice.”

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“I’m just trying to get my pitch and slow down,” said Marte after Friday’s win over the Royals. “When we have a man on third base you just have to put the ball in play. Get your pitch and see what happens.”

That sac fly came on a 3-1 pitch, a count that Marte has not been getting into very often recently. Both sac flies went up the middle, which tells Servais he had the right approach, an approach they reminded him of immediately before he went to the plate both times.

“He’s not trying to pull,” said Servais. “Seventy-five percent of sac flies go to center field or opposite field, they do not go pull side, and our hitting coach (Edgar Martinez) is one of the best of all-time at it. It’s hard because you have got to slow your emotions down and stay within yourself, and sometimes for younger players it’s especially hard because they want to get the guy in so bad. Last night’s at-bat was great. He didn’t go up and swing at the first pitch, he worked the count. It was a 3-1 breaking ball that he stayed on and hit the other way. Good stuff.”

Good stuff indeed, and a run that contributed to a valuable one-run victory for the Mariners. It is something Servais needs to see more of in the second half.

“We’ve talked about it, it’s one of the things that’s held us back and separates ourselves,” he said. “The number of those games we’ve ended up losing by one. We’ve been up by one and haven’t increased it because we haven’t done the little things. They get a hit late in the game and then you are on the wrong end of a one-run game.

“Those runs are so valuable. It’s big. It just lifts everyone up in the dugout. You are playing good baseball on the field, you are doing the right things.”

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