DETROIT -- With Ichiro Suzuki moving out of the leadoff spot this year, the Mariners had a hole to fill at the top of their lineup. Chone Figgins was chosen to fill that void, however, through 19 games, he's struggled with a .236 batting average and .309 on-base percentage.
Enter Dustin Ackley, who said after Wednesday's 9-1 win against the Tigers, the first game in which he hit in the leadoff spot this season, that he's spent most of his professional career hitting first.
"In the Minor Leagues, I probably led off 85 percent of the time," said Ackley, who went 3-for-6 with a double, three RBIs and a run scored. "I was able to take the approach I've always had. Don't try to do anything different and I think that's been important for me. No matter what spot I'm hitting in, don't try to change what you do best."
To be fair, he had only one at-bat leading off -- his first of the game. However, when leading off any inning this season, Ackley has posted a .267 average and .313 on-base percentage. Figgins owns a .185 average and .290 on-base percentage in that situation.
Last season, Ackley had a .387 on-base percentage when leading off an inning, compared to a .218 percentage for Figgins. A large part of the Mariners' success Wednesday came as a result of getting the leadoff runner on base. They did so in the first four innings, in which they scored six runs, and six out of nine innings.
Manager Eric Wedge, who had Figgins back in the leadoff spot Thursday, said he likes Ackley hitting first "a lot" but still wants to give the veteran a chance to correct his early issues.
"We're still giving Figgins the opportunity, but he has to do it," Wedge said. "It's as simple as that. If he does, he'll keep being in there. If not, we'll make a change. I don't know where the strikeouts are coming from. I didn't see that one coming."Figgins broke out in Thursday's 5-4 win, going 3-for-4 with an RBI double, a run scored, a stolen base and no strikeouts.
Liddi earning time with hard work, results
DETROIT -- Alex Liddi was perhaps the biggest surprise to make the Mariners' 25-man roster out of Spring Training. Now, after capitalizing on that opportunity, his manager can't get him off the field.
Not that he wants too, anyway. After Wednesday's 9-1 win against the Tigers, a game in which Liddi went 2-for-5 with two RBIs, manager Eric Wedge laughed when asked if Liddi would be starting in Thursday's series finale.
"What do you think?" he said about the Italian-born infielder, who went 1-for-4 in Thursday's 5-4 win.
Liddi has hit .357 (10-for-28) in eight games this season and tore up the Tigers. The 23-year-old hit a crucial home run in the eighth inning of Tuesday's game to give his team a two-run cushion. He then hit another bomb Wednesday to chase Tigers starting pitcher Adam Wilk from the game.
"He works as hard as anybody we have. if you watch the way he works out there," Wedge said. "And he's hungry to get in the lineup and he's earning that."
Liddi played third base and hit sixth Thursday. One of the most important aspects for Liddi moving forward is his versatility. He can play third base -- his natural position -- first base and he's been shagging fly balls in the outfield. That, and the way he's been swinging the bat lately, should keep him in the Majors when Mike Carp returns from the disabled list.
Opponent respects Ichiro's hitting prowess
DETROIT -- No one fields too many questions about Ichiro Suzuki anymore. The 38-year-old outfielder quietly goes about his business and produces the same consistent numbers he's had during his 12-year career -- with the exception of last year.
Last season, Suzuki was a frequent topic of conversation, as he hit .272, the lowest average of his career and his first time batting under .300. He was considered a victim of age.
But some knew better. Tigers All-Star catcher Alex Avila, for one, said he believed last season was an aberration rather than an indication for the Japanese right fielder.
"I thought it was funny last year, people thought he was done," Avila said. "He's just a good hitter. He can hit anything, basically anywhere. A lot of pitches he hit [Wednesday] were good pitches and he just knows how to put the bat on the ball and place it where there's nobody around. He's been doing that forever."
Through 20 games, Suzuki has a .301 average, is pacing the Mariners with 25 hits and is tied for second on the team with nine RBIs. All while batting in the unfamiliar No. 3 spot, a decision that Avila commended.
"The thing is now, the reason why they put him there is so he can be up with guys on base, knowing how many hits he gets, which is smart," Avila said.
Offense hitting its stride on the road
DETROIT -- Hitting-wise, the Mariners are a shockingly better team on the road so far this season. Following a three-game sweep of the Tigers, the Mariners has a team average of .272 in away games, but only a .195 average at Safeco Field.
"I don't know why," second baseman Dustin Ackley said. "Sometimes new scenery always helps. Sometimes you get in those bad grooves and it just kind of hurts. You need that kind of fresh start somewhere else to get it back going again. It could be the same for being on the road for a bad stretch and going back home."
The Mariners started a 10-game road trip in Detroit on Tuesday and in three games, put up a total of 37 hits and 21 runs. They entered the series after dropping four straight at home.
In six of their first nine road games, the Mariners tallied 10-plus hits. Manager Eric Wedge called it a fair question to ask why there's such a significant difference, but said it's too small of a sample size to make judgements.
"It's too early to even talk about it," Wedge said. "We've had one homestand and these kids have had a lot on their plates. You've got to take that into consideration. Let's get into the season a little bit."
Jesus Montero has been catching, on average, about two times per week this season. It's been a slow progression, but one manager Eric Wedge said he's comfortable with right now and doesn't plan on changing.
"I don't know how that's going to play out," Wedge said. "I'm going to trust my feel with that. And I feel good where we're at with that right now."
The Mariners entered Thursday hitting .325 since having a perfect game thrown against them Saturday.
Anthony Odoardi is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.