OAKLAND, Calif. – This was the kind of night bound to make the Mariners wonder why it took them so long.
Or, whether it took them too long to spare the team from roster changes that appear destined to come next week. An offensive eruption led by Kyle Seager’s three-run double in a 7-1 win Saturday night over the Oakland Athletics came after a prolonged team batting slump prompted numerous pregame lineup changes.
But whether it’s all just a way for the team to survive the final two days before the All-Star break remains to be seen. Mariners manager Eric Wedge stressed before the game that a complete evaluation of the squad will come during the break and continued to hint that changes are coming.
Seager’s bases-clearing double to right-center field off relief pitcher Jerry Blevins in the fifth inning gave the Mariners their first game of at least seven runs since June 20 at Arizona. It also enabled Mariners starter Jason Vargas to shift into cruise control in a dominant performance that silenced a crowd of 16,136 at the Coliseum.
Vargas did give up his major league-leading 23rd home run of the season, to Josh Reddick in the first inning that tied the score at 1-1. But the A’s had trouble connecting off him after that, swinging through multiple changeups that Vargas threw by the bucketload to Oakland hitters.
Vargas needed only 69 pitches to get through the first six innings and had retired 13 in a row entering the eighth inning. He finished with 107 pitches, six strikeouts and four double plays induced while notching his first complete game since an eight-inning affair tossed in this ballpark almost a year ago to the day.
Wedge’s pregame moves of shifting Dustin Ackley to the leadoff spot and Ichiro into the No. 2 position had the desired effect but not for the hitter it was most intended for. While Ackley went hitless, Ichiro managed to snap a career-worst 0-for-23 batting slump with a pair of singles.
The Mariners scored an unearned run in the first inning when John Jaso, put in the cleanup spot by Wedge, lined a single to center that got by Coco Crisp for a two-base error. Michael Saunders scored on the play.
Justin Smoak, a player who could be facing a demotion to Triple-A this week, helped put the Mariners ahead in the second inning with a ground-rule double off A’s starter Jarrod Parker. The double was only the fifth of the season by Smoak and put two men on for Brendan Ryan, who cashed in a pair with a double down the left-field line.
Casper Wells increased the lead to 4-1 in the fourth inning with a solo homer off Parker. Then, in the fifth, Ichiro notched a two-out single and Michael Saunders walked.
The A’s decided to pull Parker, who had thrown 94 pitches. Oakland keeps him on a periodical pitch count to avoid overtaxing his arm in light of a past Tommy John ligament-transplant surgery.
Blevins came on, walked the bases full, then Seager doubled.
Parker had given up just seven earned runs in his last eight outings combined. But he was tagged with six runs – five earned – in this game after Blevins gave up the bases-clearing double.
Vargas kept on going, surviving a leadoff single in the eighth by getting Brandon Hicks to hit into a double play. It was the third double-play grounder induced by Vargas and he added another in the ninth.
M’s catcher Adam Moore was claimed off waivers by Kansas City. Moore, 28, was designated for assignment by Seattle last week, shortly after he’d returned to Triple-A from the disabled list where he’d been recovering from his latest injury. Once labeled as the Mariners’ “catcher of the future,” Moore struggled through the 2010 season, then suffered a season-ending knee injury the first weekend of the 2011 campaign. He was having a strong spring this year, but then broke a bone in his wrist and was out several weeks. … M’s catcher Jesus Montero sat out and is unlikely to play today as he recovers from a mild concussion suffered last Wednesday. Montero won’t get behind the plate again before the All-Star break, but there’s a small chance he could DH today.
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