Aoki making impact despite struggles at plate

Mariners leadoff hitter has .483 OBP over last 7 games

Aoki making impact despite struggles at plate

OAKLAND -- The Mariners need leadoff hitter Norichika Aoki to get on base and they don't care how he does it, as long as he's out there running and bothering opposing pitchers and putting himself in position to score.

So while Aoki's batting average stood at .226 after Tuesday's 8-2 win over the A's, manager Scott Servais was encouraged by the 10 walks the 34-year-old had drawn in his last eight games after walking just twice in his first 17.

"I see a lot of good stuff," Servais said. "The key for me is he's been walking a ton lately. Even though he wasn't swinging the bat great, he's still finding ways to get on base and realizing he can still help the team even without getting a lot of hits."

Aoki reached base three times in Monday's 4-3 win with a single, double and walk and scored the winning run after stealing third and scoring on a throwing error on the catcher. He added an RBI single and a walk on Tuesday.

"I think it's getting better, day by day," Aoki said through translator Antony Suzuki. "I feel a lot more comfortable and I'm just looking to stay positive from here on and get on base as much as I can."

The Mariners signed Aoki as a free agent because they loved his consistency, having hit between .285 and .288 in each of his first four seasons in the Majors while producing an on-base percentage of .353. His OBP was a healthy .448 over the past seven games thanks to his proliferation of walks.

"I think he went 35 or 36 at-bats without getting a walk and now you look up and his numbers are great," Servais said. "He's ahead of his career norm, percentage-wise [in walks]. He does a nice job. Being aggressive on the bases last night was a big play in the game and worked out well for us. He's starting to move in the right direction."

Worth noting

• As a team, the Mariners ranked third in the American League in walks with 89 after Tuesday's win, behind only Toronto and Houston.

• The Mariners bullpen entered play Tuesday ranked first in the Majors in opponent's batting average (.171), on-base percentage (.241) and WHIP (0.92) and fourth in ERA (2.41).

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.