SEATTLE – Jason Vargas is entering rare territory this season for the Seattle Mariners, in both the workload and success he has attained, but don’t suggest to the left-hander that he has reached any sort of barrier.
“That seems to be a question every week,” Vargas said, “and every week I prepare myself to do the same thing. I feel fine. I just go out there every five days.”
That tunnel-vision approach, along with another strike-throwing demonstration, worked again in the Mariners’ 3-2 victory Sunday over the Kansas City Royals at Safeco Field.
Vargas held the Royals to four hits and a run in six innings and, of his 90 pitches, only 26 were balls.
Vargas is 8-5 with a 3.12 earned-run average, both bests by far in his 76-game big-league career, but he also has pitched 138 2/3 innings and the Mariners are watching his workload with care. He has never started more than 24 games in a season – major leagues or minors – or pitched more than 143 1/3 innings.
That’s why manager Don Wakamatsu pulled Vargas after 90 pitches Sunday, even though he had held the Royals to one hit in the first five innings. They got three off him, and their first run, in the sixth.
“To come out of that with one run just shows how good he is and the competitive nature that he has,” Wakamatsu said.
Vargas said he urged Wakamatsu, as usual, to leave him in but understood when the manager pulled him.
“Regardless how much I want to go back out there, they’ve got an idea what they want to do and that’s how it works,” Vargas said.
Sunday was Vargas’ 17th quality start (at least six innings with no more than three earned runs) this season, tying him for fourth in the American League. It was the 15th time in his 22 starts this season he allowed no more than two earned runs.
It hasn’t helped that Vargas went into the game with the second-lowest run support average – 3.32 per game – of any American League starter and the fourth-lowest in the majors.
The offense gave him just enough Sunday, thanks to two timely hits.
Casey Kotchman hit a two-run single in the sixth inning to give the Mariners a 2-1 lead and Chone Figgins grounded a single into left field in the eighth to score Ichiro Suzuki from second base.
Figgins has a season-high seven-game hitting streak and is batting .407 in his past 15 games, raising his average to .254.
“For two months to start the season, I wasn’t attacking the baseball,” he said. “Over the last couple of months, I’ve been attacking the baseball and getting on top of it more, and hitting line drives and hard ground balls. That’s my game.”
That, and Vargas’ pitching, helped the Mariners win two of three from the Royals.
Mariners shortstop Jack Wilson fractured a bone in his right hand when he slipped an fell in a bathroom at his home. He will see a hand specialist today, but is likely headed to the disabled list. Mariners right-handed reliever Shawn Kelley could be headed for surgery to determine what’s causing pain in his pitching elbow. Kelley said he is having some tests today that will be the final determination if he will go ahead with having surgery.
Mariners 3, Royals 2
E—Aviles (11). LOB—Kansas City 8, Seattle 4. 2B—B.Butler (32). HR—Gordon (5), off Aardsma. RBIs—Aviles (16), Gordon (8), Figgins (29), Kotchman 2 (36). SB—Figgins (30). CS—F.Gutierrez (2). S—Getz, J.Bard. RLISP—Kansas City 4 (Aviles 2, Maier, Kendall); Seattle 1 (Langerhans). RMU—Betemit. GIDP—Aviles, Kotchman. DP—Kansas City 1 (Aviles, Getz, B.Butler); Seattle 1 (Jo.Wilson, Figgins, Kotchman).
IR-S—Texeira 1-0. T—2:31. A—24,078 (47,878).