ANAHEIM, Calif. – One subtle pump of third-base umpire Bob Davidson’s fist helped ensure that the Seattle Mariners would not add to their long list of late-game disasters.
Instead, they held on Sunday for a hard-earned 2-1 victory over the Angels in 10 innings that would have been far more rousing had it not lifted them to 20 games under .500.
Still, a win’s a win, and this one was sweet and satisfying for the Mariners (36-56), who had lost 12 of their previous 14 games.
Jason Vargas was the pitching stalwart, though far too typically came away without a “W” to show for it. Jose Lopez delivered the winning hit, a two-out, broken-bat single in the top of the 10th to score Franklin Gutierrez from second.
Davidson, on appeal, rang up Erick Aybar on a full-count check swing with two aboard in the bottom of the 10th. Instead of having bases loaded and one out, the Angels were left with two on and two out, and David Aardsma also fanned dangerous Howie Kendrick for his 17th save.
“Obviously, that was a huge out, a big, giant out,” Aardsma said. “From my angle, which isn’t the best, I thought he went. I was the first one pointing over to get him to check.”
It was Aardsma’s first save since June 22, and ended a game in which the Mariners survived some bad baserunning – a theme throughout this four-game series – to defeat the Angels for only the third time in 13 games this season.
Much of the credit goes to Vargas, who pitched what manager Don Wakamatsu felt might have been his best game of a breakthrough season. Vargas limited the Angels to a solo homer by Mike Napoli in the second. Vargas held the Angels to four hits and struck out a career-high nine in 7 2/3 innings.
“He’s got such a feel to pitch, and he never gives in,” Wakamatsu said in admiration of the left-hander. “Just a tremendous outing.”
Vargas had thrown 102 pitches and had just struck out two batters in the eighth after a Chone Figgins error, when Wakamatsu pulled him to bring in reliever Brandon League.
“We went into that game saying, ‘Keep him right at 100 (pitches),’ ” Wakamatsu said. “I just didn’t want it to get up to 110. He had done such a phenomenal job, and in the heat, too. I trust League in that situation.”
League gave up a single to Kendrick that left runners at the corners, but got Bobby Abreu to ground out to end the Angels’ threat. League worked a 1-2-3 ninth and picked up his sixth victory.
Vargas said: “Definitely you want to stay in there and finish the rest of the inning, but the matchup was what it was. Brandon has a heavy sinker, and that tends to work well against righties. You have to play the numbers.”
Of his own outing, Vargas said: “I felt like I was throwing strikes and throwing some quality pitches. I forced them to swing the bats. I really had the changeup under control, which was a big plus for me.”
The Mariners scored the tying run in the fifth when Ryan Langerhans scampered home on a wild pitch by Angels starter Ervin Santana.
The game-winner in the 10th came after more poor baserunning nearly cost the Mariners a chance to score. Facing reliever Kevin Jepsen, Ichiro Suzuki drew a walk and moved to second on a sacrifice. But when Gutierrez grounded to short, Ichiro took off for third and was tagged out in a rundown. Gutierrez had to remain at first.
“Ichi’s got to make sure that ball gets through, and he didn’t,” Wakamatsu said. “That ball’s in front of him, and he gets caught off guard there.”
Gutierrez got into scoring position by stealing second and came home when Lopez, on a 2-1 pitch, dropped a single over the shortstop’s head.
“The first pitch, I swung really hard and tried to get a homer,” Lopez said. “Then Guti stole second, and I just looked for a good pitch. I didn’t want to get a home run. I wanted to get a line drive to bring the guy in.”
Lopez’s bat splintered on the play, which might have been the best thing. He said he knew it would be a hit.
“Oh, yeah,” Lopez said. “I hit it soft. Every time I hit it hard, it’s an out.”