SEATTLE – All it took was two clutch at-bats for John Jaso to get a new title in the Seattle clubhouse.
“Best clutch hitter ever!” Miguel Olivo shouted toward Jaso from just a few feet away.
For the second time in three games, Jaso came through in the late innings for the Mariners. Jaso lined a single over Detroit’s drawn-in infield in the eighth inning Wednesday night to drive in Michael Saunders with the tiebreaking run, Jason Vargas pitched eight strong innings and the Mariners beat the Tigers 2-1.
Jaso’s single off reliever Duane Below was hit so hard shortstop Jhonny Peralta barely had time to react before it was landing in the outfield grass and Saunders was jogging home with the go-ahead run. Saunders had led off the eighth inning with a pinch-hit double down the left-field line.
The late run capped a brief, but successful homestand for the Mariners, who took four of six from Minnesota and Detroit, and twice picked up wins thanks to Jaso’s bat. Jaso had the game-winning RBI in Monday’s series opener against the Tigers when Seattle rallied for three runs in the ninth inning, capped by Jaso’s sacrifice fly that scored Munenori Kawasaki with the winning run.
“I don’t think I thrive. I don’t think I get more energy from it. It’s just the way I am, I guess,” Jaso said of the late-inning heroics. “I’ve been in a couple of championship situations … and I just treat it like every other game. I’ve taught myself to do it and I try not to get too high or too low and stay as level as possible.”
Jaso’s single was the needed capper to back what Vargas did on the mound. Vargas (4-2) threw a season-high eight innings, striking out six and giving up just five hits. He outpitched young Detroit starter Drew Smyly, who gave up just two hits but was pulled after the sixth.
Though Vargas had thrown only 90 pitches, Seattle manager Eric Wedge went to closer Brandon League in the ninth. League immediately fell behind Austin Jackson 3-0 and walked him on a 3-2 pitch. However, Jackson was quickly erased when shortstop Brendan Ryan made his third strong defensive play in the game, this one starting a 6-4-3 double play off the bat of Brennan Boesch. League then got Miguel Cabrera to end it for his eighth save in 10 chances.
Earlier in the game, Ryan had made a barehanded grab and throw to get Jackson and stole a base hit from Prince Fielder leading off the seventh.
“Brendan Ryan had an unbelievable game,” Wedge said. “We talk about it time and time again, that’s why we’re really working to try and get his bat going because he is so valuable to us.
Blake Beavan is a “long shot” to make his scheduled start Sunday, but Wedge wouldn’t rule out the possibility. Beavan had to leave his start Monday night after getting hit in the arm by a Miguel Cabrera line drive. Wedge said Beavan could get pushed back a couple of days and either Kevin Millwood or Vargas could start on regular rest on Sunday against the New York Yankees because the Mariners are off today. … Center fielder Franklin Gutierrez, who has yet to play this season, is being sat down for a few days after plantar fasciitis in his foot flared up. Gutierrez is fully recovered from the pectoral injury that landed him on the disabled list to start the season.