SEATTLE -- While the Mariners continue to have their offensive challenges at Safeco Field, one batter who has turned that around this year is third baseman Kyle Seager.
In 184 games at Safeco over the previous three seasons, Seager hit 13 home runs. In his first 34 home games this year going into Tuesday's game against the Padres, he already has nine. And it's not just the long ball that is happening at Safeco, where Seager's batting average of .313 is a huge turnabout from his career .228 mark at the park in his first three years.
"Last year, they weren't as good," Seager said of his numbers. "It's one of the things I was saying last year, I see the ball fine here. Obviously, you like being home, but it's one of those things where sometimes, you catch on and feel good in certain situations. My swing has been feeling good while we're at home, so it just kind of works out that way sometimes."
While Seager hasn't hit a hot stretch yet on the road, where he's hitting .215 in 33 games this season, the home results have helped put him on a strong pace for the season. His 45 RBIs going into Tuesday's game are the most by a Mariners player through the first 70 games of a season since Raul Ibanez had the same number in 2007.
Seager's 10th home run this year came in his 272nd plate appearance, 56 fewer than it took him to reach his 10th homer in 2013, when he went on to hit a career-best 22.
As a team, Seattle was batting .222 at home going into Tuesday's game, compared to .253 on the road. But as in years past, that's not solely a Mariners issue. Opponents are batting .229 at Safeco this year, as opposed to a .241 road average.
Miller's patience paying off at plate in June
SEATTLE -- Mariners shortstop Brad Miller is an aggressive hitter, which helped him rise quickly through the Minors and have a strong rookie season last year. But opposing pitchers took advantage of that aggressive approach early this year and kept feeding him pitches out of the strike zone, as the youngster struggled to find his groove.
But in the past 23 games, Miller has drawn 10 walks, compared to seven in his first 36 games. And not coincidentally, as he has started to make pitchers come to him a little more, Miller has begun hitting better, as he's batted .260 with two home runs and six RBIs since May 29 to slowly raise his average from .151 to .179.
"Not getting off to the start I wanted and chasing ... people are smart," Miller said. "Pitchers are smart. They know, 'OK, I can nibble a little and this guy will get himself out.' Now I'm taking some of the borderline pitches and pitches out of the zone and getting better pitches to hit, and [I'm] willing to take that walk, for sure."
Manager Lloyd McClendon worked with Miller to narrow down his strike zone, and he said the results are beginning to show as "he needs to change the scouting report a little" on how opponents pitch to him.
"I think it's a part of seeing the ball a little better, relaxing a little more, trusting what you're doing," McClendon said. "He's starting to get better."
Miller doesn't want to overhaul his approach, just make it work to his advantage instead of against him.
"You don't turn down the aggression, but it's aggressive on a certain something in the zone," said the 24-year-old Miller. "That's better for everything. I've found lately, I find myself hitting in better hitter's counts, and if I happen to miss it and they don't come back in there, that's fine. Take the walk instead of missing it and expanding and chasing a little. It's not necessarily me saying I want to walk, but I do want to swing at better pitches, and I want to be conscious of that."
With Miller's recent success, his confidence has begun to return as well. Baseball can be a humbling game, but the youngster from Clemson feels he'll be better for his struggles in the long run.
"I felt like the beginning was an aberration, and this is more along the lines of how I think I am," Miller said. "It's hard, because when you have a tough game in the midst of it, you're like, 'Shoot, I had a tough game and everything was going so well.' But that's going to happen.
"You have to embrace it, because it'll get overwhelming. And that's how it was for a little bit. It was a little overwhelming, just because I wanted to do so well right now. But I feel a lot better."
Iwakuma's neck stiffness not likely to alter rotation
SEATTLE -- Mariners right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma skipped his normal between-starts bullpen session on Tuesday due to a stiff neck, instead just playing catch on flat ground prior to the afternoon game with the Padres.
But manager Lloyd McClendon said he doesn't think the issue will be a problem for Iwakuma's next scheduled start Friday at Kansas City.
"As I speak now, he will not miss a start," McClendon said.
Iwakuma felt some tightness prior to his last outing Sunday, and he said he wasn't sure he was going to be able to pitch that day until trainers worked on his neck while he was warming up before the game.
But the 33-year-old Iwakuma went eight innings and allowed just one run on six hits, while throwing 106 pitches in a 5-1 victory over the Rangers.
Iwakuma missed the first month of the season with a torn tendon in his right middle finger, but he has gone 5-3 with a 2.59 ERA in nine starts since his return. He's scheduled to face Royals standout right-hander James Shields on Friday.
• Going into Tuesday's game, the Mariners were third in the American League in run differential this year with a plus-32 mark, having outscored their opponents, 282-250. Only six AL teams have positive run differentials, led by Oakland's 126. The Blue Jays are second at plus-39.
• Injured position players Justin Smoak, Corey Hart and Michael Saunders will all stay behind and work out in Seattle and Triple-A Tacoma, when the Mariners head out on their road trip to San Diego and Kansas City. Smoak is expected to begin his Minor League rehab with Tacoma on Wednesday as he recovers from a strained quad, while Hart (strained hamstring) and Saunders (shoulder inflammation) are likely to begin their rehab stints with the Rainiers later in the week.