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04/18/08 8:56 PM ET
Stoic Ibanez on a torrid streak at plate
Despite hitting binge, left fielder won't let it get to his head
By Jim Street / MLB.com
ANAHEIM -- Raul Ibanez has been through enough streaks like the one he's on now to enjoy it while it lasts, and not get too carried away with it. "Just see it and hit it," the Mariners left fielder said about the secret behind the torrid hitting streak he's been on for more than a week. "I try to keep things simple. See the ball and hit it." Going into Friday night's series opener against the Angels, Ibanez had at least one hit in seven of his last eight games, going 15-for-33 with three home runs and 12 RBIs. He already has had four three-hit games this season, including both games in the Mariners' series against the Athletics in Oakland to start this two-city road trip. A career .285 hitter coming into this season, Ibanez now has had back-to-back three-hit games six times. This has started out as one of the best seasons of his career. "His all-around game has been outstanding," manager John McLaren said. "His defense, his throwing arm, the way he is running the bases. He has looked really, really good." As usual, the down-to-earth 35-year-old receives compliments with a shrug, knowing all too well that the game is so fickle that it can turn on you in an instant. But when he's this hot, it doesn't seem to matter which arm the opposing pitcher is using. Two of his hits Thursday night were off Athletics lefty Lenny DiNardo, and Ibanez is now 5-for-17 (.294) with two doubles and four RBIs against lefty pitchers this season. Against right-handers, he's 18-for-50 (.360) with five home runs and 12 RBIs. Ibanez heads into this series as the team leader in batting average (.343), home runs (5) and RBIs (16). Recent history suggests that this three-game series could be another big one for the Mariners' third-place hitter. He has a .347 (41-for-118) batting average at Angel Stadium over the past three seasons, and his current hitting binge took off during the three-game series against the Angels last weekend at Safeco Field, where he went 7-for-13, scored five runs and drove in three as the Mariners won the series two games to one. His all-time best game was here. He went 6-for-6 -- all singles -- against the Angels on Sept. 22, 2004, drove in five runs and stole his only base of the season. The only other time he even tried to swipe a base was on April 14 against the Angels. After spending most of last season batting cleanup -- and doing a fine job (.308, 13, 64) -- he has been more productive in the three-hole this season. McLaren flip-flopped Ibanez and third baseman Adrian Beltre for four games from April 8-11, but Ibanez went through a 1-for-10 funk and has been batting third ever since. But just because he has been more productive batting third so far this season, McLaren would not hesitate to bat Ibanez fourth again if the lineup needs to be tweaked. But wherever Ibanez bats, others in the lineup can watch and learn from him. He has an excellent eye and rarely swings at bad pitches, as evidenced by his eight walks and six strikeouts so far this season. Whenever hitting coach Jeff Pentland stresses the need to be selective and patient, which is almost every day, he can use Ibanez as an example. "Collectively, we have done a nice job as of late, working the count, seeing a lot of pitches and making the other team's pitcher work," Ibanez said. "It helps when you can put pressure on the pitcher. Ideally, you would like to do that all the time, but we faced a guy [Royals right-hander Zack Greinke] at home the other day and weren't able to do that." But the good news is the Mariners hitters, as a group, are showing more patience when needed and are among the league leaders in runs scored. And Ibanez is one of the primary reasons.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.