Another step forward

  • By Kirby Arnold Herald Writer
  • Monday, June 20, 2011 12:01am
  • Sports

SEATTLE — Someday in his young major league career, Dustin Ackley will face a situation, either at the plate or in the field, that will prove he’s a rookie.

In his third big-league game Sunday, Ackley continued to show otherwise.

His triple off Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels set up

the Mariners’ second run in a 2-0 victory, and he showed his range on three tough plays at second base.

“He’s come up here and contributed right away,” manager Eric Wedge said. “That’s about the greatest compliment I can give him.”

In three games since being called up from Class AAA Tacoma, Ackley has singled, tripled and homered. A writer joked that he needs only a double and inside-the-park home run to complete a stellar cycle in less than a week in the majors.

“I hope that happens soon,” Ackley said. “That means I’m swinging it good and my legs are doing good, too.”

His legs were the key to nearly every play he made Sunday, not only on the triple but also the three tough grounders he fielded.

He ran deep in the hole between second and first base to field Chase Utley’s grounder in the third inning, making a perfect throw to pitcher Jason Vargas covering first. He made a similar play on another grounder by Utley in the sixth, then had to cover perhaps even more ground when the next hitter, Ryan Howard, hit a grounder up the middle. Ackley was playing Howard to pull and had set up in shallow right field.

“The past few days maybe calmed me down a little bit for this third game,” Ackley said. “I was able to relax and play my game. After I’ve gotten some ground balls and some at-bats, I think it’s started to calm me down a bit. That’s been huge.”

Ackley said nothing has surprised him — good or bad — after three major league games.

“No real surprises yet,” he said. “But just playing against those guys — Utley and Howard and those guys — that’s awesome. I grew up watching those guys when I was in high school and middle school. It’s been fun.”

The dirty work

Seattle manager Eric Wedge made it clear before spring training that he’s in the business of playing the men who’ll help the Mariners win and not feeding their egos. Still, it hasn’t been a joy for Wedge to pull veterans like Jack Cust and Jack Wilson into his office recently and tell them they’ll lose playing time to the younger players the Mariners have called up.

“I respect players and veterans, guys who’ve played at this level for years, I respect even more,” Wedge said. “Ultimately, you have to make that decision, not what’s best for the player but what’s best for the team. What’s going to help the team win more games? What matters is how many games you win over the 162.

“I don’t expect them to be happy. It’s not important that they agree with me. It’s important that they understand what we’re doing.”

Of note

Ichiro Suzuki went 2-for-4 Sunday and extended his hitting streak to eight games, tying his season high. He’s batting .471 during the streak. … Franklin Gutierrez’s second-inning single ended an 0-for-12 streak. … Justin Smoak leads the Mariners not only with 40 RBI, but also with 20 RBI with two outs. … Ackley, who grew up near Winston-Salem, N.C., said a lot of high school and college friends, along with family, plan to watch him during the three-game series this week at Washington, D.C. … The Phillies are 0-6 in their history in road interleague series.

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