SEATTLE — Justin Smoak hit his fifth homer, Jason Vargas pitched shutout ball into the eighth inning and the Seattle Mariners beat the Texas Rangers 3-1 on Thursday night.
Seattle won for the seventh time in nine games, taking two of three from the Rangers to move within two games of .500 after starting the season 8-15.
Smoak is a big reason the Mariners are playing so well. The young first baseman was the centerpiece of the trade that sent Cliff Lee to Texas last July, and has been on a tear since returning from bereavement leave following the death of his father. He homered against Colby Lewis (2-4) in the second and finished with three hits.
Vargas (2-2) allowed one run and six hits in 7 2/3 innings. Jamey Wright got the final out of the eighth and Brandon League finished for his ninth save in nine chances.
Smoak is batting .333 with four homers and 14 RBIs in his last 10 games. He drove a 1-0 pitch from Lewis into the right-field stands, then followed with a harder-hit ball in the fourth that just happened to find the deepest part of the park. His double off the wall in center barely eluded the glove of Pedro Borbon, but Smoak was left standing at second as Lewis struck out the side.
Smoak added a single in the eighth for his second three-hit game of the series.
Seattle’s Brendan Ryan broke an 0-for-21 skid with a double leading off the third and scored when Luis Rodriguez, a late replacement for Chone Figgins at third base, lined a ground-rule double into the right-field corner.
The Mariners added another in the seventh when Jack Wilson led off with an infield single and scored on Ichiro Suzuki’s two-out hit.
That was all the offense Vargas got, and all he needed after entering with a 1-3 record and a 4.86 ERA in his career against the Rangers. The left-hander has won his last two starts after dropping his previous nine decisions.
Vargas used his off-speed pitches to keep Texas guessing and allowed just one runner to reach third base before the eighth. Vargas also benefited from key double plays started by shortstop Ryan in the fourth and sixth, and a great diving stop by second baseman Wilson to rob Borbon of a single that would have put runners on the corners with one out in the fifth.
Texas finally got a little offense in the eighth when Borbon reached on a one-out bunt single, stole second and scored on Ian Kinsler’s double. Vargas then threw out Elvis Andrus trying to bunt for a hit.
Wright entered and walked Michael Young on a 3-2 pitch, but got Adrian Beltre to hit a grounder to Ryan to end the inning.
Lewis struck out a career-high 11 in his second career complete game. Lewis has worked eight innings in each of his last two starts, but Texas went 2-5 on its road trip and heads home for a three-game weekend series against the New York Yankees.