SEATTLE -- One of the biggest surprises for the Mariners this season has been the ongoing offensive struggles of second baseman Dustin Ackley, but the 24-year-old has shown signs of coming around, and he racked up three hits in Tuesday's 3-2 win over the Rays.
Ackley was batting .225 going into Wednesday's series finale with Tampa Bay but is 6-for-21 over his last five games and continues being a big part of Seattle's success. Ackley is hitting .302 in games the Mariners have won, compared with .160 in losses.
The club is also 31-26 when he bats leadoff.
"I love the way the guy gets down the line, that was evident on his third hit [on Tuesday]," said manager Eric Wedge. "He's been competing better at home plate, he's been doing a better job of covering that pitch away and driving it the other way.
"His BP's been much more consistent. I think he's fouling off some pitches that at times before he was taking two strikes and getting punched out on looking. So he's working to get another pitch, protecting the plate better. I don't think he's there yet, but I think he's more consistently putting himself in a better position to hit."
Pryor quite proficient at stranding runners
SEATTLE -- Hard-throwing rookie Stephen Pryor has been very good in his first 10 appearances for the Mariners, posting a 0.84 ERA while allowing eight hits in 10 2/3 innings, but the big right-hander has been off the charts in dealing with runners on base.
Going into Wednesday's series finale with the Rays, Pryor had yet to allow a hit in 18 plate appearances with a runner on base. Opponents are 0-for-16 with two walks in that situation and 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position.
Add his 16 games with Triple-A Tacoma, and opposing batters are 0-for-50 with runners on base and 0-for-24 with runners in scoring position.
The 23-year-old does take a slightly different approach with runners on.
"With me, doing my quick step with runners on base for some reason, I'm able to get inside a little more on righties," Pryor said. "And to lefties I'm able to bury that slider into the back foot a little easier. Maybe I'm going a little quicker down the mound. So I guess being able to pick at the corners with two pitches and being able to bear down and able to compete helps."
Pryor picked up his second win on Tuesday after throwing 1 2/3 scoreless innings. He gave up a leadoff double to Jeff Keppinger in the ninth and stranded him in a crucial situation in the 3-2 come-from-behind victory.
"He's been really good," said manager Eric Wedge. "I like his poise on the mound, I like the way he competes. I thought last night was big for him as he continues to move forward."
Despite his youth, Pryor has shown an ability to stay calm in tight situations, which sometimes is as simple as chatting to himself on the mound.
"Sometimes I talk to myself or do different things," Pryor said. "It's not just facing the batter or who the batter is, it's more what I've got to do to make quality pitches and get ahead. It's usually just a quick sentence.
"If I'm struggling a little, I'll tell myself to stay back or something like that. Pitching is such a mental battle. If you're able to mentally correct yourself, that's when adjustments are made. Adjustments aren't made as much physically as mentally. ... Some people take a deep breath, count backwards, some guys talk to themselves, some guys speed up their work to get into the right rhythm. Everybody has their own little thing."
Furbush close to returning to Mariners
SEATTLE -- Left-handed reliever Charlie Furbush threw two scoreless innings for Triple-A Tacoma on Tuesday and appears ready to rejoin the Mariners after making five rehab appearances since straining his left triceps.
Furbush has given up four earned runs in six innings with Tacoma and struck out seven while getting progressively stronger over his past few outings. He needed just 18 pitches in his two innings on Tuesday.
"Yeah, he's getting closer," manager Eric Wedge said on Wednesday. "There's nothing I can really say beyond that. He went two innings, and he actually was so efficient, we had him throw another 15 pitches in the bullpen to get him up over 30. He felt good, looked good."
With the off-day on Thursday, it would make sense for the Mariners to have Furbush fly back to Seattle and rejoin the club on Friday if he's ready. But a roster move would be needed to create an opening for him, so no announcement will be forthcoming until that decision is made.
Furbush went on the disabled list after feeling a strain in his shoulder after facing one batter in Kansas City on July 17. He has been one of the team's top relievers, going 4-2 with a 2.17 ERA in 37 1/3 innings, with 47 strikeouts, while holding left-handers to a .155 batting average.
Going into Wednesday's game, Kyle Seager had an eight-game hitting streak at Safeco Field, during which he's batting .467, raising his home average from .167 to .215.
According to FanGraphs, rookie right-hander Carter Capps has averaged 98.4 mph on his fastball in his first three appearances.