(Dustin Ackley is greeted after scoring in the fourth inning on Miguel Olivo’s single. Ackley had reached on a double after delivering a three-run triple in the second. Photo by Getty Images).
First, let’s get a few items of business out of the way. Eric Wedge named his starter for Wednesday, in what would have been Erik Bedard’s spot. There had been speculation (by myself and others) that it would be left-hander Anthony Vasquez coming up from Tacoma, but instead, it’s going to be lefty Charlie Furbush. He came from Detroit in the Doug Fister trade. Furbush’s last major-league start came July 9 against the Royals, and it wasn’t a good one. He lasted just 2 2/3 innings, giving up nine hits and nine runs (just four earned, however). Furbush wound up throwing 79 pitches. He started in the minors after that but lately has been working in relief.
“He was up to 90-some pitches in mid-July,” Wedge said. “Obviously, he’s not stretched out to the point we can leave him out for a long time. We want to see him start, and this will be the beginnings of that. It’s a good time to get him in the rotation, and we’ll build him up from there.”
Also, Michael Pineda’s next start has been pushed back to Tuesday in Texas, according to MLB.com. Jason Vargas, Blake Beavan and Felix Hernandez will face the Angels this weekend.
Chone Figgins strained his hip flexor diving back into third base in the second inning. He’ll be re-evaluated by the team doctor on Tuesday.
Now, on to the offense. The Mariners had 15 hits and four runs total in three games against Tampa Bay. Tonight, they had 16 hits and eight runs.
“We swung the bats well tonight and throughout the game,” Wedge said. “I was really impressed with their approach and their aggressiveness. We got on some fastballs and we stayed through some breaking pitches. We took advantage of opportunities. It was a real good night for us offensively.”
Where did the aggressiveness come from?
“As much as I talk about it and want it to happen, it just doesn’t happen that fast,” Wedge said. “Each individual has to really commit, be all in with it in approach and game plan, and have the discipline to stick with it. Regardless of what sport you play, you have to prove it to yourself. You can hear you need to do it, but to prove it to yourself is a difference-maker. We have a lot of players in the process of figuring out what sort of big-league player they are going to be. That’s all part of it.”
One of those is Justin Smoak, who unexpectedly entered the game in the third inning when Figgins went out, and had a walk, single and double in his first three plate appearances. Since July 2, Smoak had been hitting .128 (11-for-86).
Asked if there were times he wanted to knock his head against the wall, Smoak laughed and said, “A lot of times. It’s tough to go through struggles. Sometimes, you have to get through it and learn things about yourself. You have to keep working hard to get better.”
What did he learn about himself? “How bad I could be sometimes. It’s one of those things. You get caught up in trying to do too much. You have to go back to making it simple and hitting it where it’s pitched.”
He and Wedge were particularly pleased with a left-handed single off Trevor Cahill. Smoak, a switch-hitter, had been hitting .201 left-handed.
“I’ve been feeling better every day,” Smoak said. “I have to keep working hard, especially left-handed. I’ve got to get it ironed out and do whatever I can to stay short (with his swing). I get big, and I get long.”
Blake Beavan was the beneficiary of the offense, and he ptiched well, especially in getting out of a bases-loaded, no-out situation in the first inning.
“When you’re in that situation, I don’t care what time of the ballgame, but especially in the first inning, to really bow your neck and get out of it with nothing, it showed me a great deal,” Wedge said. “It showed us all a great deal.”
Beavan has five straight quality starts, tying Michael Pineda for the team record at the start of a career. He says he’s getting more comfortable and confident with every start.
“You look around the clubhouse, and there’s a bunch of guys who were in Triple-A to start the year,” he said. “I think it takes the pressure off when you have buddies you’ve been playing with this year and last year.”