SEATTLE -- A Mariners team that hasn't caught a lot of breaks this season got a big one in Saturday night's 5-4 victory when Red Sox speedster Jacoby Ellsbury stayed at third base on a fourth-inning ground ball that seemed like a golden scoring opportunity.
Ellsbury, who is second in the American League with 85 runs scored, didn't go home when Adrian Gonzalez hit a chopper between first and second that Mike Carp fielded with a sliding stop, then threw to Felix Hernandez as he ran to the bag with his back to third.
When Hernandez turned back around, he was surprised to see the Red Sox leadoff man still at third. And Ellsbury wound up not scoring when he was thrown out at the plate by Ichiro Suzuki on the next play, a huge break in what turned out to be a one-run game.
"Actually, yeah, I was surprised," Hernandez said. "I was like, 'Wow, he's still on third.' That was good. We did the little things and won the ballgame. That was the biggest thing."
Mariners skipper Eric Wedge also expressed surprise, though he understood why Ellsbury played it safe in that situation.
"Nobody was out, so I'm sure they were going to make sure the ball got through there," Wedge said. "But obviously that worked for us."
"That's a scenario when we're down five and you want to be sure," he said. "Could I have scored? You know, in that situation -- runner on third, no outs -- even if they get the out at first, you still have two more opportunities to drive in that run. You either want to see it through or be 100 percent sure that you can get there.
"It was a chopper. I broke hard, but once I saw him coming in, he either has a play at the plate for me or, which he did, he went to first. We elected to stay at third and have helpfully two more shots at it."
Carp seizing opportunity to impress Mariners
SEATTLE -- This season has become largely about opportunities for young players to show the Mariners what they can do, and one who is taking full advantage is Mike Carp.
The 25-year-old outfielder/first baseman has hit .371 in 22 games since being recalled from Triple-A Tacoma on July 19 with four home runs, 23 RBIs and a sterling 1.000 OPS going into Sunday's game with the Red Sox.
He hit a two-run single in the Mariners' five-run first inning on Saturday to run his hitting streak to 13 games, the longest by an American League rookie this season.
Carp is still technically a rookie, though he spent small parts of the past two seasons in Seattle. He also had an early-season callup to the Mariners when he didn't hit well in minimal at-bats, so he's enjoying this first extensive look he's received from the franchise that obtained him from the Mets in the J.J. Putz trade in 2009.
"It feels good, it feels comfortable," Carp said of his recent run. "Just getting a chance, getting an opportunity. I don't know if I'll be in there tomorrow or sent down tomorrow, so I'm going to play it like that every day and take advantage of every opportunity I get."
With the release of veterans Milton Bradley and Jack Cust and the recent injuries to Justin Smoak, manager Eric Wedge has leaned on Carp lately to fill the No. 4 spot in the batting order, and he's responded well.
"I take pride when there are runners on base," Carp said. "That's what I was doing the last couple years in Tacoma. I was a 3-4-5 hitter. To get the opportunity up here to hit cleanup, I'm just going to run with it."
Carp's 14 RBIs in August, going into Sunday, were the second most of any Major League player this month.
Smoak hoping he can return in two weeks
SEATTLE -- Looking for a positive for a guy who has been the victim of two wicked bad hops in the last few weeks that first bruised his thumb and then broke his nose and cheek on Friday night?
"I don't even feel my thumb anymore," Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak said, his dry humor covering the frustration of now being on the 15-day disabled list following his facial injuries.
Smoak saw a second specialist Saturday night and was told neither fracture was displaced and he didn't need surgery. So his wounds will be allowed to heal on their own with the idea that he should be on track to return about the time his 15-day stint ends on Aug. 28.
"He'll start playing some catch and hitting sometime this coming week," manager Eric Wedge said. "Obviously, he won't be taking ground balls for a while. We have to make sure he's OK with the face and eye and whatnot. And we'll evaluate him again when we get back off the [next] road trip. He's going to go with us and we'll go from there."
Smoak can only shake his head about his latest misfortune, which came in the second inning of his first game back after missing seven games with the thumb injury when a hard smash by Boston's Jarrod Saltalamacchia caught him flush in the bill of his cap as he lowered his head at the last second.
The ball drove through the hat and smashed into the bridge of his nose, leaving him sporting a nice black eye now and a very sore nose. But, yeah, it could have been worse.
"It didn't feel good, I know that," Smoak said. "But the doctor said thank God it hit the hat. If it didn't, it could have been bad."
Smoak, who never had broken any bones before, said the doctors said he'll need to wear a plastic guard that extends over his left cheek when he bats right-handed initially. But he's not going any further than that.
"They're going to try to get me to wear a mask on the field, but that ain't gonna happen," he said.
The Mariners didn't take batting practice before Sunday's day game with a charity softball game being played on the field, but manager Eric Wedge was still talking about new addition Wily Mo Pena's batting-practice show upon his arrival Saturday.
"He hit that one left-center, halfway up the upper tank," Wedge said. "Dang. It looked like Wiffle ball. I've seen him before in Cincinnati and Boston. I've seen him do it against us a few times, too. He hit a ball in Fenway off the [Green] Monster once and it came back and one-hopped the shortstop.
"Think about that," said Wedge. "There was a [fan] out there sitting there and I thought he was going to die. At the last second, he just moved and it hit and went all the way back. I'm not going to say the pitcher's name, just out of respect. But true deal, man."
Rookie Michael Pineda will be back on the mound Monday against the Blue Jays, then pitch again in his next normal turn Sunday at Tampa Bay. The Mariners' rotation for the upcoming Toronto series will be Pineda, Jason Vargas and Blake Beavan.
After Thursday's off-day, they'll come with Felix Hernandez, Charlie Furbush and Pineda in the Tampa series in Florida on Friday through Sunday. Wedge said another pitcher would need to be recalled from the Minor Leagues for a doubleheader at Cleveland on Aug. 23, after which it's possible the team will stay in a six-man rotation.
When Ichiro Suzuki threw out Jacoby Ellsbury at home in the fourth inning Saturday, it was his 97th career outfield assist, tying him with Jay Buhner for second in club history. Ken Griffey Jr. holds the Mariners record with 108. Ichiro's 97 assists are the most by an active outfielder in the Majors, with Carlos Beltran and Jeff Francoeur second at 93.