Kawasaki's hit is the biggest as Mariners pound 10

Kawasaki's hit is the biggest as Mariners pound 10

Kawasaki's hit is the biggest as Mariners pound 10
ANAHEIM -- Munenori Kawasaki has contributed more high-fives than RBIs this season, but the Mariners' first-year utility infielder delivered a three-run double Monday to help Seattle top the Angels, 8-6.

How big was it for the shortstop from Japan to finally be a part of a big win with his new team, with his first extra-base hit in the fifth inning ultimately holding up as the winning margin?

Kawasaki pondered the question through his interpreter, Antony Suzuki, then raised his hand as high as he could above his head. No translation needed there.

"Body language," said Suzuki with a grin.

There were plenty of positive vibes in the Mariners clubhouse after beating the Angels for the first time in five tries this season. Jason Vargas picked up his seventh win of the season, tying him for the American League lead, and credited his team's improving offense for the big lift.

Tom Wilhelmsen breathed life into the Mariners bullpen with 1 2/3 innings of perfect relief for his first Major League save. And the lanky right-hander had to get Albert Pujols and Mark Trumbo out with runners on second and third in the eighth, earning his stripes in his first real closing opportunity since Brandon League's demotion.

"It kind of feels the same as before," Wilhelmsen said of his new role. "I don't know how long this is going to last. Brandon is finding his groove and when he comes back, that's the way it's going to be. We're all aware of that. Just trying to take advantage of our opportunities when they come."

As for the bats? Yeah, they kept rolling with Seattle now having scored 55 runs over its past six games.

Kawasaki, hitting .158 with just two RBIs in 38 at-bats since signing as a free agent out of Japan, even got in on the act with his 2-for-3 night with a double and bunt single while filling in for Brendan Ryan at shortstop.

"We have good teammates here and we had a lot of hits today, so I was able to produce because of all the hits before me," said Kawasaki.

Designated hitter John Jaso, who went 3-for-5, said there is something to that old "hitting is contagious" mantra.

"You always want to go up to the plate hitting happy," said Jaso. "You don't want to go up there hitting mad. You can really dig yourself into a hole that way. When you get a group of guys that are cheering each other on and you go up there happy and get those strings of hits going, it's easy for the hitting and positiveness that comes out of it to infect everybody in the lineup."

The rejuvenated offense helped Seattle slow an Angels team that had won 10 of its last 12 games after a slow start. The Halos are now 28-28, while the Mariners are 25-32.

Kyle Seager, thrilled that his younger brother Corey was selected by the Dodgers with the 18th pick in the first round of the Draft earlier in the evening, celebrated by smashing a home run to right-center in the first inning as Seattle jumped on Angles starter Ervin Santana for eight hits, seven runs and six walks in 4 2/3 innings.

Vargas, who has endured some of the worst run support in baseball over the past two seasons, certainly is enjoying the turnabout. In his last three wins, the Mariners have scored 10, 10 and now eight runs.

"That's awesome," he said. "I'll take that every time. I'd have liked to have stayed out there a little longer and give the bullpen more rest, but I'm glad to take a win."

Vargas had eight strikeouts and two walks with nine hits in allowing four runs over 5 2/3 innings. It was the fifth time in his career he's had eight or more strikeouts, with three of those against the Angels.

The lefty's biggest issue was Kendrys Morales, who hit solo home runs in the fourth and sixth innings, and up-and-coming star Mike Trout.

The 20-year-old Trout went 4-for-4 with a double and two RBIs. Trout's fourth hit -- an RBI single -- came against League and allowed Vargas' final run to score as the Angels closed to 7-4 in the sixth.

After Michael Saunders' RBI double in the seventh made it 8-4, the Halos loaded the bases in the eighth against reliever Shawn Kelley when Howard Kendrick reached on a wild pitch on a strikeout, Erick Aybar walked and John Hester singled deep in the hole at short on a ball Kawasaki bobbled.

Trout then lifted a sacrifice fly to center and Maicer Izturis ripped an RBI double to right-center, cutting the lead to 8-6 and bringing on Wilhelmsen.

He induced Pujols into a comebacker to the mound and caught Hester in a rundown between third and home, but Hester avoided Wilhelmsen's tag long enough to allow Pujols to scamper into second as the tying run.

But Wilhelmsen finished the job by striking out Mark Trumbo, preserving the 8-6 lead.

"Just a great step-up performance when you're facing those two hitters in that situation," said manager Eric Wedge.

How big was it? Just ask Kawasaki.

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.