Vargas stars in Seattle’s 7-0 win over Rays

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SEATTLE (AP)—Jason Vargas(notes) changed speeds, moved location and used nearly every inch of Safeco Field’s vast outfield to finally get that elusive first shutout.

Vargas threw a four-hitter for the first complete game shutout of his career, and Adam Kennedy(notes) and Miguel Olivo(notes) hit back-to-back homers as the Seattle Mariners roughed up Tampa Bay pitching for the second straight night, 7-0 on Friday.

While Seattle’s bats continued to roll, now with seven homers in the last two games, it was Vargas accomplishing a career first that became the story of this game.

Vargas (4-3) essentially tossed a complete game shutout earlier this year when he held Baltimore scoreless for nine innings. But Seattle’s offense failed to provide any help that night and the Mariners eventually lost in extra innings.

This time there were plenty of runs on the board for Vargas.

“It’s definitely something we haven’t put together all season, putting together that many home runs in two games, but you know, it shows we can score runs in a lot of different ways,” Vargas said.

He’s right.

While the long balls were impressive, including Justin Smoak’s(notes) 10th of the season in the first inning, the Mariners also scored three times in the third with the benefit of just one hit that barely reached the outfield grass.

It all added up to Seattle’s 13th win in 16 games.

“It fun coming here to win,” Kennedy said. “It takes the pressure off just having to hit. It’s fun winning.”

Vargas (4-3) rolled through the Rays, bouncing back from two straight poor starts where he failed to get beyond the fifth in either. It was the second complete game of his career and first since Aug. 21, 2005, when he was a prospect with Florida.

With the kind of offense Seattle provided for a second straight game, Vargas could have gotten away with being off again. In his last start against the New York Yankees, Vargas was done after three innings, giving up six earned runs.

But the Rays rarely threatened. Only twice before the ninth did they get a baserunner to second—once on a wild pitch, the other a stolen base—and each was left stranded there. Vargas was helped by Franklin Gutierrez’s(notes) running catch to end the sixth as he crashed into the wall in center field, robbing Ben Zobrist(notes) of extra bases and an RBI.

Vargas retired 16 of 17 during one stretch before Johnny Damon’s(notes) one-out single in the ninth, the Rays’ first base hit since the fourth inning. Zobrist followed with an infield single after Chone Figgins(notes) lost his footing along the third-base line. But Vargas got Evan Longoria(notes) to fly out and Matt Joyce(notes) to ground out to end it.

Vargas struck out four and walked one, throwing 115 pitches

“I’ve had a couple of times in the past where I had some run support and blown it, but it was good to kind of break that habit and go out there and shut it down,” Vargas said.

Tampa Bay starter Andy Sonnanstine(notes) (0-2) was rattled for seven runs, but allowed just four hits all of which drove in runs for the Mariners. He was already trailing 4-0 when Kennedy and Olivo both hit their fifth homer of the season two pitches apart in the fifth inning. It was the second time this year Seattle has hit consecutive blasts.

Olivo also came through in the third after Kennedy was intentionally walked to load the bases, ripping a one-hop single off the glove Tampa Bay third baseman Evan Longoria to cap the Mariners’ big inning. Seattle sent nine men to the plate in the third, scoring one on a bases loaded walk to Smoak and another when Jack Cust(notes) grounded out to first with the bases loaded.

“When you have those opportunities you have to take what they give you,” Seattle manager Eric Wedge said. “We want everybody up there ready to hit, we want an aggressive mindset but having said that there has to be a certain degree of discipline and I think our guys did a good job,”

Smoak’s homer with two outs in the first was his fourth of the current homestand. Seattle has seven homers in the first two games of the series—20 percent of its season total of 35.

NOTES: Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready performed the national anthem before Friday’s game. … Tampa Bay’s Jeff Niemann(notes), on a rehab assignment at Triple-A Charlotte, threw 55 pitches in four innings, giving up just one hit Friday. He’s been on the DL since May 6 with a lower back strain. … Ichiro Suzuki(notes) went 0 for 4, dropping his average to .266.

Tim Booth can be reached at: http://twitter.com/tjbooth7

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