ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Ultimately, the reason the Seattle Mariners held on Saturday night for a 2-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays was because Jason Vargas and his weary bullpen found a way to get it done when they had to.
The Mariners were already short in the bullpen after a 14-inning loss the night before and could ill-afford an abbreviated stint by the left-hander. Whether it was Vargas toughing out six-plus innings with base runners in all but one frame, Shawn Kelley making a phenomenal play on a bunt, or Oliver Perez, Brandon League and Tom Wilhelmsen throwing hitless ball, the Mariners got it done on the mound.
“I think that was why I was getting more frustrated, I kept going 3-2 to everybody, it felt like,” Vargas said after notching his 10th win of the season. “To come out with the win and be able to hold that together, it was huge.”
The Mariners struck out 15 more times in this game, leaving Vargas and the bullpen almost no margin for error.
“As good as we were in Kansas City, we’ve actually gotten away from some of the things that led us to success there offensively,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said of his team’s free-swinging ways.
A crowd of 18,800 at Tropicana Field kept waiting for the Rays to break on through, but the bullpen retired the final nine Tampa Bay batters to help Seattle improve to 4-2 on the road trip.
Of the 36 runs scored by the Mariners on this trip, 19 have come in the first two innings. They have scored just 17 runs over the 47 other innings they’ve played in the six-game stretch.
The Mariners continued that early-or-never trend with two runs in the first inning off a shaky-looking Alex Cobb, who would go on to throw 37 pitches in the opening frame.
Michael Saunders delivered a bases-loaded single the opposite way to bring two runners home. Vargas kept buying his team time by once again blending an improved changeup in with his fastball to keep the Rays off balance.
“I got some outs on it when I really needed it,” Vargas said of the change-up. “But there were times when I gave up some hits on it because it was up in the zone.”
Still, he didn’t give up any home runs and that was huge for a guy who leads the majors with 25 allowed, 19 on the road.
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