The Seattle left-hander reached another bench mark in his comeback Friday night, beating the Los Angeles Angels 5-2 with 6 1-3 impressive innings. It was his first victory as a starter since April 13, 2006, with Florida.
“It’s been a while, and it’s a good feeling—especially to do it relatively close to where I’m from,” said Vargas, from nearby Apple Valley.
Vargas (2-0) sat out the entire 2008 season recovering from his surgery, but was confident he would re-establish himself as a big league starter at age 26. After a couple of relief outings, he was inserted into the rotation on May 12 because of an injury to Carlos Silva(notes).
“I didn’t have any question in my mind,” said Vargas, whose three previous starts for the Mariners resulted in no-decisions. “Once we got past the first couple of months and everything was going along as planned, I felt like it was just a matter of time before I was able to be 100 percent and that hopefully somebody would give me a chance. It’s awesome to have an organization and a coaching staff that believes that you can still pitch.”
The Mariners, coming off a 6-1 victory in Oakland on Wednesday, have won consecutive games for the first time since beating Los Angeles on April 24-25 to take a 3 1/2 game lead in the AL West. They are 12-20 since that 11-6 start and are six games behind first-place Texas.
Trailing 4-2, the Angels got a run closer in the seventh on Kendry Morales’(notes) RBI single that chased Vargas. But Sean White(notes) ended the inning by striking out Howie Kendrick(notes) with the potential tying runs at second and third. Mark Lowe(notes) pitched a perfect eighth, and David Aardsma(notes) got three outs in the ninth for his seventh save.
Ichiro(notes) Suzuki was 2 for 5 with an RBI single and extended his hitting streak to 22 games—the third-longest of his big league career and three shy of the franchise record he set in 2007. There have been 12 hitting streaks of 20 or more games in Mariners history, and the two-time AL batting champ has seven of them.
Angels left fielder Juan Rivera(notes) was 3 for 4 with a home run in the fifth inning and robbed Russell Branyan of a home run in the eighth—two pitches before Jose Lopez(notes) lofted his fourth home run just beyond Rivera’s reach.
“I knew he was getting close,” Lopez said. “When I saw Rivera jump at the wall, I said: `Oh, my God, maybe he’s got a chance to make it.’ He was ready for my flyball, but he didn’t get it. After that, I smiled when he missed the ball.”
The right-hander, who missed the Angels’ first 34 games because of a strained forearm, was 6-0 with a 1.91 ERA and a pair of complete-game shutouts in his previous six starts against the Mariners.
“They got their No. 1 on the mound, but we were able to get to him somewhat early,” Vargas said. “It took a little pressure off me and let me keep trying to pound the strike zone and try to get them out as quick as possible.”
After retiring his first six batters on 20 pitches, Lackey threw 34 in the third inning as Seattle took a 3-0 lead. Suzuki had an RBI single, Franklin Gutierrez(notes) scored on Adrian Beltre’s(notes) infield hit with the bases loaded, and Ken Griffey Jr.(notes) capped the rally with a sacrifice fly that Rivera caught in foul territory.
“My stuff tonight felt as good as it’s been in a couple of years, honestly,” Lackey said. “I had a really good two-seamer. I’m still not really sure how I gave up three in that one inning, but that’s baseball. You’ve just got to keep making pitches and try to give your team a chance to win.”
Vargas retired 12 of his first 13 batters before giving up Rivera’s leadoff homer in the fifth. The Mariners, who came in with a major league-low 180 runs, restored their three-run margin in the sixth on Endy Chavez’s(notes) sacrifice fly.
Vargas is 6-7 with a 4.68 ERA in 24 career starts. … Suzuki is batting a league-best .383 on the road. … Vargas has allowed a home run in each of his four starts, all of them with the bases empty. … Angels 3B Chone Figgins(notes) was 0 for 3 with a walk, ending his career-best hitting streak at 15 games.