Mariners-Orioles Preview

The Associated Press

Seattle's rotation has been among baseball's best of late, though the Mariners' sluggish offense didn't provide much in the team's latest series.

Facing another struggling lineup may help Jason Vargas achieve something no other Mariner has done in more than nine years.

Vargas looks to win his sixth consecutive start as Seattle visits the Baltimore Orioles in the opener of a three-game set Monday night.

The Mariners (51-59) had won seven straight games heading into their series with the Yankees, but they totaled six runs while dropping two of three following Sunday's 6-2 loss.

Jesus Montero had a pair of RBI singles but is hitting .222 over his last seven games.

''We kind of labored through that game there,'' manager Eric Wedge said.

Seattle's starting pitching, though, has been solid lately, sporting a 2.17 ERA that is the best in the AL since July 26 - when Vargas beat Kansas City to help start the Mariners' winning streak.

Vargas (12-7, 3.71 ERA) has won his last five starts with a 1.75 ERA after allowing two runs in seven innings of Tuesday's 7-2 win over Toronto. He was the subject of trade rumors leading up to the non-waiver deadline with the Mariners last in the AL West.

He'll look to become the first Seattle pitcher to win six straight starts since Joel Pineiro accomplished the feat from June 16-July 13, 2003.

The left-hander's has lowered his ERA nearly a full run since it climbed to 4.66 after allowing 10 runs in a loss to Arizona on June 20.

"To have a pitcher you can trust and count on to go out there and give your team a chance to win ballgames, that's everything," Wedge told the team's official website of Vargas.

Vargas is 1-1 with a 1.69 ERA in five career starts against Baltimore, tossing nine shutout innings of Seattle's 2-1, 12-inning loss to the Orioles in his last outing May 12, 2011.

Baltimore (57-51) is involved in a tight race for one of the league's two wild-card spots and helped its cause with a 1-0, 10-inning victory over Tampa Bay on Sunday that was also its second straight shutout.

Taylor Teagarden, who had been mired in a 1-for-25 slump, hit an RBI double 10th as five pitchers combined on a three-hitter.

The Orioles have won 10 straight one-run games and 11 consecutive extra-inning contests.

''Our guys did a lot of things well to make a difference in a real close game,'' manager Buck Showalter said. ''Well pitched on both sides.''

Baltimore, though, has scored only eight runs while splitting its last four games and also mustered only three hits Sunday. The Orioles are 5 for 36 with runners in scoring position over that span, with all five hits coming in Saturday's 4-0 win.

Chris Tillman (4-1, 2.70) is hoping the offense regroups while trying to extend a streak of his own. He settled down after allowing five runs in the first inning, giving up two hits over the next four in Baltimore's 11-5 victory over the Yankees on Tuesday to win his third straight start.

"That's what's really impressive about him," Wieters said. "He's still 24 years old, and he knew if he could keep us in there, we'd have a chance."

The right-hander has been solid since allowing two unearned runs over 8 1-3 innings to beat Seattle 4-2 in his first start of the season July 4. He's won both of his career starts with a 0.63 ERA versus the Mariners.

Baltimore has won six of its last eight home meetings with Seattle.

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