DETROIT – Chone Figgins winced when asked whether he’d felt any urgency to produce the kind of afternoon that just propelled his Mariners to a rare road sweep.
Figgins had waited a long time for results like this three-hit affair Thursday, when his seventh-inning double capped a 5-4 victory over the Detroit Tigers. It didn’t hurt any that his exploits came the same day manager Eric Wedge declared that Figgins won’t have forever to make things happen if he wants to keep his leadoff job.
But Figgins calmly insisted that he knows the fundamentals are there and that he’s close. Just as he insisted his team had been close to getting it right before unleashing an offensive barrage on the Tigers for three straight days.
“It’s never a case of urgency,” Figgins said. “Like the first night here. I’m still getting my walks. For me, it’s either ‘Hit a ball hard’ and if you’re not swinging a bat, you still walk. I’ve always been like that. I stick with that, and things get better.
“And I’ve stuck with it and I ended up having a good game. So, keep sticking with it.”
The Mariners stuck with their newfound blitz approach to offense in the first inning, when Figgins and Dustin Ackley opened with singles followed by a three-run homer from Justin Smoak to make it 3-0 before many in the Comerica Park crowd of 31,451 had taken their seats. Miguel Olivo added a solo homer in the fourth off Tigers starter Rick Porcello, and it looked once again like the Mariners would blow the Tigers off the field.
But Detroit finally got a hit off Hector Noesi one out into the fifth inning and a run later that frame. Then, they struck for a triple, a single and a tying two-run homer by Miguel Cabrera off Noesi before he could get anyone out in the sixth.
It came down to Figgins again in the seventh, when he lined a ball to right-center on which Brennan Boesch mistakenly ran in. The ball got by him for a double that brought Brendan Ryan all the way around from first base to score.
“I think he froze,” Figgins said of Boesch. “He didn’t think I hit it that good. But I knew I hit it better than he thought I hit it.”
Figgins had been hitting a lot of balls better than the results were showing the first two weeks. Then came last week, when he had trouble making contact with anything and saw his on-base average plummet while the team’s fortunes sagged with him.
Before Thursday’s series finale, Wedge warned that Figgins needed to quit adding to his team-leading 21 strikeouts.
“We’re still giving Figgins an opportunity, but he has to do it — simple as that,” Wedge said. “I mean, if he does, we’ll keep him in there. If not, we’ll make a change.”
Wedge suggested that Ackley could be a potential successor at leadoff. Ackley had three hits out of that spot Wednesday night in place of Figgins.
Wedge cautioned that it’s still too early to make any determinations. The game helped Figgins lift his batting average to .236 and on-base percentage (OBP) to .309.
Smoak had been in a 0-for-15 slump before drilling Porcello’s change-up over the right field wall in the first inning. The Mariners jumped on Detroit early in all three games and outscored the Tigers 21-9 in the series.
“When you put runs up early, it puts pressure on the other team,” Smoak said. “It makes you as a team and your pitcher out there feel more relaxed.”
Wedge said he’s been pleased by what Olivo has done lately and added that Figgins continues to do well when he’s selective.
“When he gets a good pitch to hit — and gets his pitch in his zone — obviously, he’s hit the ball with much more authority this year,” Wedge said. “He’s really worked hard to get better.
“It’s still not where he wants it to be, I know that. But, hopefully, a day like today can help get him going.”