August 4, 2011 in Sports

Newcomer Furbush impressive in debut with Mariners

Larry Stone Seattle Times
 

Casper Wells has had a four-day observation period of his new ballclub, and what he has seen so far of the Mariners doesn’t jibe with their lowly place in the standings.

Nor does it match the Mariners’ well-earned reputation as an offensive black hole.

After Wells and another former Tiger, starter Charlie Furbush, played key roles Wednesday in Seattle’s 7-4 win over Oakland – one in which the Mariners banged out 14 hits (all singles) and rode five strong innings from Furbush – Wells assessed the Mariners of his brief duration.

“They’re great ballplayers,” he said. “It seems like some kind of chemistry is building within the team, just from what I’ve seen since I’ve been here. Everyone’s feeding off each other.”

Of course, Wells wasn’t around for the recent 17-game losing streak that buried the Mariners in last place in the American League West. The Mariners, skewing much more toward youth after the trade-deadline departures of Doug Fister and Erik Bedard, completed a three-game sweep of the A’s, and hope they’ve turned a corner.

The Mariners batted .336 in the Oakland series while scoring 19 runs. Not bad for a team that has scored the fewest runs in the majors and was in danger of surpassing last year’s historic offensive ineptitude.

“The way things have been going, I wouldn’t have thought that at all – plus when they were playing us in Detroit, they were smashing us,” said Wells, referring to Seattle’s three-game sweep of the Tigers in April in which they scored 24 runs.

“Hitting’s contagious, like anything else,” Wells said. “When guys are getting hits, it gets contagious, and wins start piling up. The pitchers are doing a great job, and that’s where the wins come in.”

Wells had a pair of RBI singles and is hitting .400 (6 for 15) with a home run and four RBIs since coming over with Furbush last Saturday in the Fister trade.

Ichiro Suzuki (serving as the designated hitter) and Mike Carp each had three hits, but they had to share the spotlight with Furbush.

The 25-year-old lefty from Maine with a funky delivery shined in his first Seattle start.

The Mariners built a 7-1 lead but the game got a bit tense in the ninth inning when Josh Willingham hit a three-run homer. Brandon League got the final two outs for his 26th save.

In his previous major league start, July 9 against the Royals while with the Tigers, Furbush was blasted for nine hits and nine runs in 2 2/3 innings. But this time, he retired the first 13 Oakland batters he faced as the rotation replacement for Bedard.

Furbush lost his perfect game and shutout with one out in the fifth inning on back-to-back doubles by Conor Jackson and Scott Sizemore. But Furbush’s five-inning stint, in which he gave up just those two hits and one run while striking out three and not walking any, was precisely what the Mariners were hoping for.

“He threw the ball great,” manager Eric Wedge said. “He was efficient and used all his pitches. He trusted his fastball, trusted his stuff in general. Good tempo. There were a lot of good things out there.”

Furbush’s last start was in the minor leagues on July 14, so he was on a strict pitch count of 60 to 65 (he wound up with 62). But he did more than enough to earn another outing, keeping the A’s off-balance.

“We’re going to keep him in the rotation for a while,” Wedge said. “He’s started for all of his career with the exception of this year. We’re giving him a chance to come over here and pitch and start for us.”

Oakland’s first hit, a towering drive by Jackson that bounced off the top of the left-field wall, actually appeared catchable by Greg Halman.

But Halman, starting for the first time since July 26, missed the ball, and the umpires wound up using instant replay to determine that it had not cleared the wall.

Sizemore’s double scored Jackson, but Sizemore was gunned down trying to advance to third on a fly out. Sizemore went sliding past the base, and fledgling third baseman Jack Wilson slapped on a nifty tag.

Wilson, making his first career start at third base, had an outstanding defensive game. He aided Furbush with two diving stops that he turned into outs.

Asked about the defense behind him, Furbush said, “Stellar. I mean are you kidding me? We had some great plays. You have to tip your cap to your defense.”

Box score, page B4

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