OAKLAND, Calif. – Three pitches in, it was obvious Jason Vargas and the Mariners were in for a long day.
In actuality, the two-hour, 19-minute holiday yawner, which the Mariners lost 6-2 to the Oakland Athletics, seemed a whole lot longer. But with Seattle’s offense clunking along at record-low pace, the Monday matinee was effectively done on a first-inning home run by Coco Crisp and a following triple by Daric Barton.
Barton scored moments later and the Mariners never showed signs of getting back into it. And now, with Vargas’ earned-run average and home-run totals shooting up, the inevitable questions about whether he’s wearing down have surfaced again.
“If you go by his career, the number of innings he’s pitched, this is the most he’s been,” manager Daren Brown said. “We know that. That works into the decision today of (limiting him to) 80 pitches. I don’t think he’s as sharp as he has been. And 80 pitches in four innings for a guy that’s a command guy, obviously he’s not getting through easy innings.
“I thought he had to work today to keep it where it was. And it is something we’ll look at.”
Brown backed that up moments later by announcing that the rotation will stay on course after Thursday’s off-day. That means Vargas will pitch Sunday’s road-trip finale in Anaheim on an extra day’s rest.
Franklin Gutierrez hit a solo home run in the seventh with his team down 5-0, but the Mariners’ offense managed just four hits off Brett Anderson for 7 2/3 innings, and one more against the Oakland bullpen. The Mariners have scored three runs or fewer in 11 consecutive games and will match the club record set in 1988 if they do it one more time.
“We’re not finding that big hit,” hitting coach Alonzo Powell said, adding the M’s hit the ball hard early, “but again, we couldn’t get anything going.”
For the record, Vargas threw 81 pitches over 4 1/3 innings in front of an announced crowd of 11,581 at the Coliseum that appeared to be about half that size.
“They hit some balls hard, hit some balls out of the yard. … I guess the rest is history,” said Vargas.