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Mariners-Angels Preview

The Associated Press

The Seattle Mariners have routinely been among baseball's worst offensive teams over the past four years.

So far, that's changed dramatically.

The Mariners will try to continue their offensive onslaught as they go for their best start in 19 years while sending the Anaheim Angels to their worst in 22.

Seattle (2-0) owns the lowest batting average over the past four seasons at .235. The team did little to change that hitting an AL-low .237 last season, ranking only better than Miami (.231).

The new-look Mariners seem capable of avoiding such a status this year, pounding out three homers and 12 extra-base hits among their 21 overall in positioning themselves to sweep this three-game set.

Another strong showing at the plate could make Seattle 3-0 for the first time since 1995.

Justin Smoak is a big reason for this year's strong start, going 4 for 8 with two doubles, one homer and six RBIs through two games. The first baseman hit .238 with a career-high 20 homers and 50 RBIs in 2013.

Robinson Cano, Seattle's lavish free-agent signing, is 3 for 7 with a double and two runs. He's also drawn three walks as the Angels (0-2) have pitched around him.

"No doubt. Why wouldn't you?" Smoak said of Los Angeles' strategy. "There's a reason why you do it, but we're all going to have to get big hits with guys on base this season."

That hasn't been a problem yet, with the Mariners going 8 for 19 (.421) with five doubles, two homers and one triple with runners in scoring position.

Second-year shortstop Brad Miller hit one of his two homers Tuesday in that scenario, finishing with three RBIs in the 8-3 victory.

"We've got some depth," Miller said.

The same could be said of the rotation, which has allowed four earned runs in 13 innings.

Now, the Mariners are turning to James Paxton, one of their top pitching prospects.

The left-hander provided a glimpse of his potential in September, going 3-0 with a 1.50 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 24 innings over four starts. He also limited opponents to a .172 batting average.

Paxton, though, struggled over his last two starts in spring training, yielding six runs and 10 hits while fanning eight in eight innings.

The Angels are staring at potentially their worst start since going 0-4 in 1992.

Unlike Seattle, Los Angeles is struggling greatly in the clutch, going 1 for 13 with runners in scoring position after a 1-for-8 effort Tuesday.

"There's a lot of things we need to do better," manager Mike Scioscia said. "We're a better team than showed up the last couple of games. We're getting some guys on base, and our situational hitting was great all spring. We just have to do a little bit better job of it."

Hector Santiago is scheduled to get the ball after being acquired in a three-team trade from the Chicago White Sox last winter.

The left-hander is starting a season in a rotation for the first time after changing roles over the past two years with the White Sox, going 4-9 with a 3.56 ERA in 34 games - 23 starts - last year.

Santiago earned a starting spot for the Angels after going 2-1 with a 3.63 ERA while fanning 24 in 22 1-3 innings over five starts in spring training.

He has no record over six relief appearances against the Mariners, allowing three runs and striking out eight in 7 2-3 innings.

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