BY Art Thiel 06:17PM 08/14/2011

Thiel: Wells, Furbush making Mariners look good

Mariners’ kids help earn series win over Boston, just as they beat the Phillies, NL’s best. You don’t suppose . . .

Charlie Furbush shut down the Red Sox on four hits Sunday. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest file

Not sure what all this means, but:

*After beating Boston 5-3 Sunday, the Mariners won the series 2-1 from the American League’s best team, the same outcome as the series against the National League’s best, Philadelphia, in June.

*The Mariners have three hitters batting .275 or above: first baseman/DH Mike Carp (.320), second baseman Dustin Ackley (.297), and left fielder Casper Wells (.275). All are rookies.

*Another rookie, starting pitcher Charlie Furbush, a lifelong Red Sox fan, dope-slapped his heroes for seven innings.

In a season otherwise extinguished by a 17-game game losing streak, perhaps the meaning  of these developments is one word: Hope.

Mariners fans know all about the smallness of the sample size, as well as the expectations created by rookie flashes; after all, Willie Bloomquist once had a .400 September. But while positive first impressions can be oversold, they cannot be denied.

To name two, Furbush and Wells, youngsters acquired at the trade deadline from Detroit for pitchers Doug Fister and David Pauley, are creating splendid local debuts and making general manager Jack Zduriencik look way smart, way early.

Wells Sunday hit the third home run in his past four games at Safeco, starting from a compact swing upon a knuckleball from Tim Wakefield that appeared to have no chance until it landed eight rows deep in left field.

“At first, no,” said Wells, when asked if he thought his ball was gone. “It was a down and in fastball and I just tried to put a good swing on it.”

That’s a good sign. At 6-2 and 210 pounds, Casper is a solid but unimposing figure until he applies his quick wrists and discerning eye — not a Buhner-esque swing — to the primary task.

The way manager Eric Wedge likes to describe it is that Wells “sticks his nose in there.” That’s Wedge-ese for not giving away pitches (or entire at-bats), not giving in after two strikes and “making them get you out,” as opposed to getting oneself out.

In the six home games since his acquisition, Wells has nine hits in 22 at-bats (.409) with three home runs and eight RBI. This, in a park where the Mariners have spent years inadvertently proving that offensive careers go to die there.

It’s the kind of offense the Mariners have been seeking from left field for oh, about 20 years, with the exception of a Raul Ibanez interlude, but then he had to play in the field too.

“It’s not fun not playing,” Wells said, deploying a double negative to describe his time in Detroit, which had an abundance of outfield talent. Wells insists he did not dive into the Internet to see what kind of competition he had in Seattle.

“I don’t think that way,” he said. “The Mariners just said they wanted me and had a place for me.”

In 100 games over parts of two seasons in Detroit, playing in a park bigger than Safeco, Wells batted .286 with 8 homers and 29 RBI. Not huge, but better than anything that Mariners had going.

Now, left field is looking different. Another rookie, Trayvon Robinson, along with Carp and even journeyman Wily Mo Pena, are in play.  It was also possible that one among them could bump weak-hitting Franklin Gutierrez in centerfield. But suddenly, Gutierrez is on a seven-game hitting streak and batting .462. Coincidence? Or a kick in the butt?

However it shakes out, the influx of young plate talent has helped the Mariners average nearly five runs a game over the past 12, seven of which were wins.

Even before the September callups, the Mariners have had nine players make their MLB debuts this year. On the roster Sunday were 11 rookies, and  14 have played this season, second most in the majors behind Kansas City’s 15.

These were the guys who helped beat the Red Sox, which were described this way way by Angels centerfielder Torii Hunter in the New York Post: “They have an ungodly team. The team they have is not real. They really paid for that one. They got all these athletic guys, power guys, power pitchers, they’re supposed to win. Their team is actually better than the Yankees.’’

A big reason they were not better than the Mariners this weekend was Furbush, a converted reliever who went a career high seven innings with six strikeouts, four hits and two walks.

“He had a real consistent delivery . . . very poised, with a good tempo,” said Wedge. “He was very good.”

In only his fifth major league start, he bounced back well from his last outing in Texas (four innings, seven runs) and likely fixed himself as the third rookie in the five-man rotation, including Michael Pineda and Blake Beavan.

Despite its resemblance to a day-care center, the Mariners roster is fairly crackling with potential. Always a dangerous word when it comes to this franchise, but for a couple of weekends this summer, it has made believers of the best.

Once the Mariners catch onto this 162-game idea, they might get 40,000 a night even without bobbleheads.


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