Tigers maul Vargas, M’s
DETROIT – One large source of the frustration surrounding the Seattle Mariners’ early-season collapse was that it came while they were getting so much good starting pitching from expected and unexpected sources.
In the latter category were Jason Vargas and Doug Fister, both of whom pitched at an All-Star level the first two months of the season.
But now both are showing some warning signs that the increased workload this season might be catching up to them. Vargas was the latest to falter, getting knocked out in the fifth inning Saturday as the Tigers rolled to a 6-1 win over Seattle at Comerica Park.
The victory pulled the Tigers into a tie for the A.L. Central lead with Minnesota, while the Mariners, who had been clinging to hopes of climbing back into their own divisional race, lost for the third straight time.
They are now 3-5 on this road trip heading into the series finale Sunday. Trade-rumor king Cliff Lee is scheduled to take the mound on the same day he’s likely to be named to the American League All-Star team.
In their last four starts, Vargas and Fister are a combined 0-3 with a 9.00 earned-run average (18 runs in 18 innings). In giving up eight hits and six runs over 4 1/3 innings Saturday, Vargas saw his ERA rise from 2.80, tied for sixth lowest in the American League, to 3.22.
Vargas now has pitched 100 2/3 innings as the Mariners near the halfway point of the season, and manager Don Wakamatsu has been mindful of his mounting workload. Fister spent nearly a month on the disabled list with shoulder fatigue.
Wakamatsu said after the game that the Mariners are considering shutting down Vargas and/or Fister until the All-Star break to help preserve their arms. The M’s will have Erik Bedard returning to the rotation on Tuesday. Both Vargas and Fister would have just one more scheduled start before the end of the first half on July 11.
“We’ll talk about some scenarios,” Wakamatsu said. “He (Vargas) was cruising along, and his pitch count got up and you start to think maybe some of that has to do with fatigue. We will definitely talk about that in the next couple of days.”
Vargas indeed breezed through the first three innings, blanking the Tigers on one hit. But after getting two quick outs in the fourth, the Tigers loaded the bases on a walk to Miguel Cabrera (back in the lineup after missing the last three games against Seattle) and two singles, the latter an infield hit.
Vargas went 2-2 on Brandon Inge, who grounded a single past diving shortstop Jack Wilson to bring in two runs.
The Tigers knocked out Vargas and broke the game open with four runs in the fifth. With one out, they got four straight hits – starting with another infield single and including back-to-back doubles by Ryan Raburn and Magglio Ordonez – with an intentional walk to Cabrera mixed in.
“I felt like I was throwing the ball all right,” Vargas said. “They got some hits that got through. We had some things not go right for us. A couple of those things don’t happen, and it’s a different ballgame. But that’s the way it played out.”
Vargas doesn’t believe he’s feeling any ill effects from his mounting innings.
“I feel fine,” he said. “I’ve thrown 100 innings before combined between the minor leagues and major leagues (he had a career-high 143 last year). I think innings are innings. We’ve still got a long way to go, so I better be OK.”
Later, he added, “I actually feel great. It’s just a matter of being able to withstand a run that you were on. I threw the ball well for a good portion of the season. Tonight was just one of those nights where it went their way instead of mine.”
The Mariners, meanwhile, were stymied by Detroit starter Justin Verlander – just as they had been the previous night by Max Scherzer, and the day before that by the Yankees’ CC Sabathia.
Verlander fanned 10 in his seven innings, giving up his only run in the seventh. That was plated on an infield single by Michael Saunders. The M’s went on to load the bases with two outs, but their last hope of a comeback faded when Chone Figgins grounded out.
Casey Kotchman, playing first base in place of Russell Branyan, had two hits, including his first extra-base hit since May 5, a double in the seventh to start the Mariners’ mini-rally.
Tigers 6, Mariners 1
|Seattle||000||000||100 – 1||7||1|
|Detroit||000||240||00x – 6||11||0|
E – M.Saunders (3). LOB – Seattle 10, Detroit 7. 2B – Kotchman (9), Raburn (9), Ordonez (15), Mi.Cabrera (24), Inge (19). RBIs – M.Saunders (21), Ordonez (50), C.Guillen (22), Inge 3 (33). RLISP – Seattle 5 (Kotchman 2, Figgins 3); Detroit 5 (Inge, Laird 3, A.Jackson). RMU – F.Gutierrez, Jo.Wilson, C.Guillen, Inge.
|J.Vargas L, 6-4||41/3||8||6||6||2||3||101||3.22|
|Verlander W, 10-5||7||7||1||1||1||10||114||3.85|
IR-S – B.Sweeney 3-2. IBB – off J.Vargas (Mi.Cabrera). T – 2:41. A – 32,430 (41,255).