SEATTLE -- Everyone noticed Dustin Ackley scampering home from third on a wild pitch in the 10th inning to score the winning run in Sunday's 2-1 victory over the Marlins, but somewhat lost in the bizarre finish was how the rookie got in position to score in the first place.
After doubling off Randy Choate to lead off the 10th, Ackley had the instincts and guts to tag up and take third on a fly ball to left-center by Miguel Olivo. A lot of youngsters would hesitate in that situation, but Ackley -- in just his ninth Major League game -- read the situation perfectly and hustled into third just ahead of the throw from Logan Morrison.
"I was kind of hanging out there for a moment in case it got down," Ackley said. "But I saw him slow up a little bit and I was like, 'I've got to get to third with less than two outs.' If you don't see his number running to the wall, you've got to get back there and tag."
Ackley also showed excellent speed in legging out a triple earlier in the game, then was quick enough to get home on the winning run even after the ball bounced off the backstop back to catcher John Buck nearly in time to make a throw to pitcher Steve Cishek on the wild pitch during an intentional walk attempt to Carlos Peguero.
Manager Eric Wedge noted Ackley's speed is impressive, while he's just learning how good the 22-year-old's baseball instincts are as he sees new situations.
"I think for a young player, he's pretty good," Wedge said of his feel for the game. "I don't know how good yet. But he understands, he's a good learner and listener. I feel like Brendan Ryan is going to help him up the middle. I think the more he can hang out with Adam Kennedy, the better he's going to be just because Adam is the consummate pro in every facet, on and off the field.
"He pays attention, which is going to help him. To get to your question, I think he has pretty good instincts for a young player and I think he's going to end up having real good instincts."
With Kennedy at DH, Figgins starts at third
SEATTLE -- Chone Figgins lost his everyday job when Dustin Ackley was called up from the Minor Leagues 11 days ago, but the veteran infielder has not been forgotten by Mariners manager Eric Wedge.
With Wedge wanting to give Adam Kennedy a lighter day on his feet by playing designated hitter in Monday's series opener against the Braves, Figgins was back in at third base despite his .188 batting average and ongoing struggles.
Figgins is 0-for-13 since June 17, the day Ackley was brought up from Triple-A Tacoma and has started just three of the previous seven games, including a last-minute fill-in Saturday when Justin Smoak felt ill.
"We'll just try and get him in there when we can," Wedge said. "He's still a guy we want to try and get going. We're not going to be able to do it just with the kids. We need to get these veteran guys headed in the right direction as well.
"I felt like the other night he had two of the hardest balls I've seen him hit, the shot to short and the ball to center field. Now that we have the DH to play with, we can mix and match a little more."
Kennedy has been outstanding at third base since moving over after Ackley's arrival at second, but at 35 he's a guy the Mariners don't want to wear down over the long haul.
"We've been pushing Adam pretty hard and asking a lot of him, so I want to make sure we don't get too complacent with that," Wedge said.
Wedge acknowledged that Figgins appears to have lost some confidence with his first-half struggles, but needs to play his way out of that.
"You either have confidence or you don't," Wedge said. "It's such a powerful thing. And when you struggle for a while, your confidence is going to waver. I'm sure that's happened with Figgy some, but he has a lot of pride and cares about this game and his teammates.
"He hasn't played a lot lately, but he's handled that like a pro. He hasn't pouted, he's been a man about it. When he gets an opportunity like tonight, he just has to focus on his game and go out and play. Hopefully that's what we'll see."
Seattle pitchers take pride in helping at plate
SEATTLE -- Mariners pitchers finished up Interleague "road" games with their three-game weekend set against the Marlins at Safeco Field with Doug Fister's run-scoring double the fifth hit for the group in 25 at-bats.
That five hits tied the club record -- set in 2000, '02 and '03 -- and their .200 batting average ranks third behind the Orioles and Angels among all Major League teams so far this season.
The Mariners' pitchers enjoy their opportunity to swing the bat. Felix Hernandez prides himself on his grand slam against Johan Santana in 2008. Jason Vargas was an accomplished designated hitter at Long Beach State and is regarded as the best of the bunch, though ironically he was the one who didn't collect a hit this season.
- 131 wins
- 121 wins
Fister also is a former college hitter who played some first base and outfield when he wasn't pitching during his younger days at Merced (Calif.) College and Fresno State. He wound up 2-for-6 this year, the first hits of his Major League career.
"Swinging it feels like I'm a little kid again," Fister said. "Getting up there and having some comfort in the box, going up there and really having fun. But there's still the thing in the back of your head that says you have to help contribute. There's always that aggression and competitiveness and you want to do well."
Longtime Tacoma Rainiers radio broadcaster Mike Curto will do his first Mariners game on Wednesday on a one-game fill-in basis. Curto, who has been the voice of the Rainiers since 1999, will work with Rick Rizzs in the radio booth. The Mariners have been rotating that position among seven former broadcasters this season following the death of Dave Niehaus, with Curto now filling in due to a scheduling conflict for Dave Henderson.
The Mariners are the only team in the American League with four pitchers ranked among the top 20 in ERA with Michael Pineda fifth at 2.45, Erik Bedard 10th at 2.93, Doug Fister 19th at 3.18 and Felix Hernandez 20th at 3.19. The Rangers have three pitchers in the top 20.
Closer Brandon League has not allowed an earned run in his last 17 appearances and leads the AL with 21 saves going into Monday's games, having recorded 12 straight saves since a mid-May hiccup when he lost four straight. His ERA in that span has dropped from 7.31 to 3.58.
First baseman Justin Smoak is understandably proud of his wife, Kristin Smoak, who ran a 1:54:16 half-marathon on Saturday in Seattle. Smoak said his wife is a former soccer player who had never run more than a 10K (6.2 miles) prior to Saturday, but has been training with the wives of teammates Jason Vargas, Chris Ray and Shawn Kelley, who also ran the 13.1-mile event.
"I just run 90 feet and turn left," Smoak said.