Vargas shuts down Rockies to clinch series

Vargas shuts down Rockies to clinch series

Vargas shuts down Rockies to clinch series
DENVER -- It wasn't supposed to be like this. The Mariners limped into Denver at the end of a long, unwinding road trip with one win to show for their last 13 away games. They faced a Rockies club that has always been dominant at Coors Field, but was damaged from its own 2-6 road trip.

But something got into the Mariners as they held the Rockies scoreless for 15 2/3 innings, cruising to their second straight win, holding Colorado to two hits in nine innings behind Kevin Millwood Friday and two hits through six innings with Jason Vargas on the hill Saturday before finally letting Colorado on the scoreboard en route to a 10-3 Mariners victory.

"I think he obviously caught us at a good time," the Rockies Michael Cuddyer said of Vargas. "He's a good pitcher, don't get me wrong. But we're not swinging the bats very well. A lot of us are cold at the same time. Every team goes through it."

Vargas maintained Millwood's mastery over the Rockies' lineup, scattering two hits until he wavered in the seventh with a 9-0 lead in hand.

When did Coors Field become the cure-all for opposing pitching staffs? A hitter's haven, always, as Seattle's 10 runs Saturday can attest to. But what high-altitude elixir did Millwood and Vargas, find to power them over a dangerous Rockies lineup, silencing their bats and boggling their minds?

Turns out a diet of fastballs did the trick two days running.

"I was throwing a lot of fastballs today," Vargas said. "Coming here before I've kind of tried to go back and forth a lot. Try to keep guys off balance, and I've fallen behind. So I was going to go out and try to pound the zone with fastballs like Millwood did last night. I had a little hiccup in the seventh, but I got through it."

Momentum is only supposed to be as good as the next day's starting pitcher, but Vargas made a point of picking up from the previous day's starter. He'd gone over a Coors Field game plan with injured catcher Miguel Olivo when they crossed paths on the team's last homestand over a week ago, and after watching Millwood pitch Friday, Vargas dismissed any lingering doubts.

"You see him go out there pounding the zone with fastballs and making them commit early, and then you can go to your secondary [pitches] when you need it," Vargas said. "I asked him after the second inning [Friday], 'Have you thrown anything but a fastball?' And he said, Nope. I haven't thrown anything but a fastball.'"

Vargas went seven innings on the heels of Millwood's nine, giving the road-weary bullpen much-appreciated rest. He gave up five hits and a walk and struck out one, amounting to three runs, all coming in his final frame when Jason Giambi finally broke the two-hit plateau with a double to deep center in his first at-bat of the game. After Jordan Pacheco singled him home, Wilin Rosario launched a two-run shot to left field to end the Rockies' string of scoreboard goose eggs at 15 in two days.

Facing heralded Rockies rookie Christian Friedrich in his third start and his Coors Field debut, the Mariners raised the southpaw's ERA from 1.38 to an even 5.00, tagging him with eight runs in five-plus innings.

"He has a pretty good fastball, he has some sharp breaking pitches, and we wanted to make sure, particularly with the breaking balls, if he was out of the zone that we were able to lay off it, make him come in," manager Eric Wedge said. "We wanted to make him throw the ball over the plate."

Kyle Seager started the scoring in the second, launching a two-run homer into the right-field bullpen and plating Jesus Montero, who'd walked to open the inning. It was the first of three hits for Seager.

"It was definitely good to get on the board and give Vargas a little run support," Seager said. "It was definitely good to strike first and get out there to that early lead."

Seattle added a pair in the third with RBI singles from Montero and Seager and another in the fourth when Brendan Ryan tripled to the left-center gap with one out and Vargas drove him home with a base knock up the middle. Then the Mariners exploded in the sixth, driving Friedrich from the game with hits from Michael Saunders and Ryan and a walk with Vargas at the plate. All three of Friedrich's baserunners came around to score on a two-run double from Dustin Ackley and a two-run single from Casper Wells.

"It becomes more fun [when you pile up runs]," Ryan said. "It was a good vibe today. Everybody's pulling for each other. It got contagious. We put good passes on the ball. You don't run into that many hits on accident. It was a good day for us. Vargas did his thing. He even got in on the act [offensively]."

The lack of an accidental attack came from a readiness to pound on Friedrich's vulnerabilities, even with only two big league game's worth of tape to study.

"When he made a mistake, we were ready for it," Ryan said. "We were on the fastball. If that slider hangs, being on the fastball you're just going to catch it a little out in front and maybe drive it pull side. It's a good day for us."

All but one Seattle starter notched at least one hit Saturday, and while the Rockies started pulling starters after falling behind by nine, Wedge wouldn't relent.

"In this place, you never know," Wedge said of Coors Field. "It's not over 'til it's over. You can never have enough here. Even getting one run back after they scored three, I felt was somewhat significant, because you don't want them to feel like they're back in the ballgame. You want to keep going."

Owen Perkins is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.