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Rotation fuels Mariners' rise

The SportsXchange

The Seattle Mariners had a chance to drop off the .500 radar when they lost the first two games of the weekend series to the Los Angeles Angels.

All the more so because the Los Angeles crew was able to rally to beat staff ace Felix Hernandez on Saturday, ending a nine-game winning streak for the right-hander.

But the Mariners came back the next day with 7 1/3 shutout innings from Hisashi Iwakuma and Monday with seven one-run innings from Jason Vargas, and just like that, Seattle is only four games under .500. The Mariners beat the reeling Boston Red Sox 4-1 Monday in the series opener at Safeco Field.

There's no gold medal for a .500 finish in baseball, and in the red-hot American League West, a .500 record is still likely to leave a team in last place. But considering where the Mariners have been, .500 would be an excellent finish to the season.

One game into the second half of the season back on July 13, the Mariners were 16 games under .500. They've trimmed that deficit by 75 percent, and if they can make up four games in the final four weeks, Seattle will have some reason to celebrate.

And if the Mariners are going to get there, it's going to be because of Iwakuma and Vargas who, together with Hernandez, have made the rotation the real deal in the last two months.

Vargas is 6-2 with a 3.29 ERA since the All-Star break. Iwakuma is 5-2 with a 2.18 ERA. Hernandez is 7-1 with a 1.57 ERA. And while second-year right-hander Blake Beavan's ERA since the break is just 3.90, he, like Vargas, is 6-2 since the break.

The only starter to struggle in the second half has been right-handed veteran Kevin Millwood, who is 1-6 with a 5.43 ERA.

As long as the starters keep giving the Mariners a chance, .500 doesn't seem out of the realm of possibility.

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