Vargas baffles Indians before record-low crowd
SEATTLE — Jason Vargas threw seven innings and the top of the order provided pop for the Seattle Mariners in a 4-1 win Wednesday night over the Cleveland Indians before the smallest crowd in the history of Safeco Field.
Brandon League pitched the bottom of the ninth for his fifth straight save. Just 11,343 watched the game, setting a record low at Safeco Field, which was built in 1999. The previous low was 11,701 against Baltimore on May 31, 2011.
Derek Lowe (2-1) pitched 4 1-3 innings, allowed two home runs, four earned runs and walked six — one short of his career high.
Chone Figgins and Ichiro Suzuki provided a brisk start for the Mariners. Figgins turned an eight-pitch at-bat into his eighth career leadoff home run and first of the season.
Ichiro followed two batters later with his first home run of the year when he hit a drive to right-center field. That was his first home run batting third after hitting 94 batting leadoff, and one batting second, leaving him four shy of 100 career homers.
Meanwhile, Vargas zipped along. He struck out four consecutive batters, starting at the end of the third and extending through the fourth. It was part of seven consecutive retired by the left-hander.
Vargas teetered in the sixth when he loaded the bases after walking designated hitter Travis Hafner. But, he struck out Shelley Duncan with a change-up and got a groundout to shortstop from Jose Lopez.
He came back to throw a 1-2-3 seventh inning to finish a solid effort during which he allowed just four hits and a run. He struck out seven and walked three.
The Mariners tacked on a run in the bottom of the second when Jesus Montero was walked on four pitches, pushing Brendan Ryan across the plate. But Lowe was able to get Kyle Seager to fly out to left field with the bases loaded to avoid further damage.
Cleveland shortstop Jason Donald bunted Aaron Cunningham to third after Cunningham doubled to open the third inning. Jason Kipnis’ sacrifice fly to center field drove Cunningham in for Cleveland’s first run.
Dustin Ackley drove in Ryan with a single to center to expand the Mariners’ lead to 4-1. Lowe staved off a bigger inning by getting Montero to ground into a double play.
Lowe’s bumpy night ended in the fifth following a single by Miguel Olivo that put runners on first and third with one out. Lowe allowed two home runs, four earned runs and walked six, just one short of his career high. It was his shortest outing of the young season.
Jairo Asencio replaced Lowe and held off the Mariners in the fifth by getting Munenori Kawasaki to pop out and Brendan Ryan to ground out on a close play at first.
Ackley played first base for the first time in his major league career. Regular first baseman Justin Smoak sat out because of tightness in his right hamstring. He’s day-to-day after first feeling the tightness last Saturday.
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