Vargas carries streaking M's
Pitcher helps Seattle pick up seventh win in last 10 games
SEATTLE (AP) - A week ago, the Mariners were sinking. No passable starting pitching beyond ace Felix Hernandez. No shortage of angst over when Cliff Lee will get healthy to rescue the season.
Now, six wins in seven games later, there's still angst - over which stellar starter should go when Lee returns.
Jason Vargas extended a stretch of strong outings by the rotation in Seattle's 3-1 victory over the struggling Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday night.
One night after Doug Fister carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning for a win, Vargas (2-1) allowed just three hits in seven innings against the Orioles.
Then again, Baltimore is 2-13, with just two runs and nine hits combined in two games here.
Vargas had allowed two runs and five hits in six innings to beat Oakland last week. He is competing with Fister and Ian Snell to keep the final two rotation spots before Lee returns from a strained abdomen to make his Seattle debut, likely at the end of next week.
The Mariners' most consistent starter since the beginning of spring training said he isn't thinking beyond this week.
"That's not up to me," Vargas said of his fate when Lee comes back. "I really don't have an answer for you on that - other than I will throw a bullpen in a couple days."
Mark Lowe pitched a scoreless eighth and David Aardsma finished for his sixth save - and 16th consecutive conversion dating to Aug. 24.
Not that many noticed. One night after Safeco Field hosted the smallest crowd in its 10 1/2-year history - 14,528 - just 15,931 were covered by the retractable roof on a cool, damp night. It was the third-smallest turnout at the stadium.
and three of Safeco Field's lowest five crowd counts have been on this opening homestand.
After a single by Ichiro Suzuki and a walk to Chone Figgins leading off the first, Hernandez advanced each with a wild pitch - a breaking ball that appeared to skip off the lip of infield grass about 8 feet in front of home plate.
Franklin Gutierrez drove in Suzuki with a sacrifice fly. Then Milton Bradley singled home Jose Lopez with the go-ahead run.
Bradley fist-bumped first-base coach Lee Tinsley after his eighth RBI in eight games and appeared fine, yet left the game with tightness in his left calf minutes later. Eric Byrnes replaced him in left field.
The often news-making Bradley is due in Chicago this weekend for the first time since the Cubs traded him this winter following one failed season. The Mariners and White Sox begin a three-game series Friday, and manager Don Wakamatsu expects Bradley to be in the lineup because "it doesn't look like anything serious."