SEATTLE — Boom or bust.
Seattle Mariners first baseman Danny Valencia has experienced both extremes already this season.
“Valencia, after a slow start to the season, picked it up in May and is continuing on in June,” said Mariners manager Scott Servais, whose team will continue its 11-game homestand when the American League Central-leading Minnesota Twins visit Tuesday night.
Valencia tied a franchise record against the Tampa Bay Rays last weekend with hits in nine consecutive at-bats.
After batting just .181 in April with one home run and five RBIs, Valencia is hitting .348 since, with four home runs and 21 RBIs in 29 games.
“May was good, and hopefully June will be better,” Valencia said.
Valencia matched a career high by driving in five runs Friday in Seattle’s 12-4 victory over Tampa Bay, and he went 4-for-4 on Saturday in a 9-2 rout of the Rays.
Singles in his first two at-bats Sunday in a 7-1 victory gave him nine consecutive hits, tying the team mark set by Raul Ibanez in 2004.
“(Valencia’s) been on fire,” Servais said after the Sunday game. “When you’re going good, you’ve got to ride it.
“I was sitting next to (hitting coach) Edgar Martinez in the dugout and somebody asked him if he ever had nine straight hits, and he couldn’t say that he did. That says a lot.”
Servais said he believes Valencia, who was acquired from the Oakland A’s in an offseason trade, was pressing too much in April.
“You start taking batting practice in the spring and start trying to hit them as far as (Robinson) Cano and (Nelson) Cruz,” Servais said. “Danny’s got home run potential, but it’s more important for him to be a good hitter. The power comes next.”
The much-traveled Valencia, who is playing for his seventh team since coming up with the Twins in 2010, admitted as much.
“You always want to come out the gate and show everybody (what you can do) and want to contribute,” he said. “What’s important is to trust your abilities. Being here in the clubhouse cements (that you belong).”
Both Servais and Valencia said the first baseman’s problems in April stemmed from not using the whole field.
“In spring training and early this year, I didn’t have a good feel for right field,” Valencia said. “Now I’m able to hit the ball pretty hard that way.”
As for his memories of Minnesota?
“That’s such a long time ago,” Valencia said. “It was great, a lot of fun. I played with a lot of guys that were great, veteran leaders. That was my only time being to the playoffs (as a rookie in 2010). They told me not to take that for granted.”
Nor is he taking his current streak for granted.
“There’s a lot of luck involved in this game,” Valencia said. “I’ve got good pitches to hit, and I’m not missing them. I’m just trying to have a good approach and stick with it.”
Valencia and the Mariners are scheduled to face Twins left-hander Hector Santiago (4-5, 4.76 ERA) in the series opener. Valencia has hit .389 in 18 career at-bats against Santiago, who has a 4-3 record and a 3.09 ERA against Seattle.
The Mariners are set to counter with left-hander James Paxton (4-0, 1.26). In his first start since being activated from the disabled list upon his recovery from a left forearm strain, Paxton pitched 5 1/3 scoreless innings Wednesday against the Colorado Rockies. He is 1-1 with a 1.54 ERA in two career starts against the Twins.
Source: Fox Sports