Mariners recover in eighth to turn back A's

Mariners recover in eighth to turn back A's

Mariners recover in eighth to turn back A's
SEATTLE -- Shortstop Brendan Ryan has been struggling offensively much of this season, but the Mariners defensive wizard supplied some magic with his bat as well on Tuesday as Seattle ended its recent scoreless drought with a 3-2 victory over the A's at Safeco Field.

Ryan, hitting .182, singled home Casper Wells for the winning run in the bottom of the eighth for a much-needed victory for a Seattle squad that had been shut out its previous two games.

Ryan has been hitting better of late as he's 10-for-31 (.323) over his past 10 games. But the veteran infielder figured with Ichiro Suzuki waiting in the wings, he'd get a good pitch to hit on a 3-2 count from reliever Jim Miller, and Ryan delivered.

"I knew 3-2 with a base open and Ichi on deck, I didn't want to be passive up there and take a third strike," Ryan said. "Hitting a buck-eighty, I'm not the guy you want to walk. So I'm just glad it worked out. I was just happy to see the ball hit some grass."

Reliever Charlie Furbush picked up the victory after pitching a scoreless eighth and Tom Wilhelmsen nailed it down with his sixth save, but starter Jason Vargas did the heavy lifting in this one.

Vargas turned around his recent struggles with 6 2/3 strong innings, tying his career high with 10 strikeouts while allowing just three hits. But the lefty earned a no-decision when the A's scored twice in the seventh to tie the game at 2-2.

Vargas had lost his previous three starts, including a five-homer disaster his previous outing in Arizona. He was a different pitcher Tuesday after working hard to rediscover his changeup during a weekend bullpen session.

"The home runs were one part of it," he said. "We were in Arizona and I know people say it can happen there, but at the same time, you don't want it to happen to you. I think leading up to that is what brought me to that point. You can only get away with making mistakes for so long before they start to snowball on you.

"I felt like that was what happened in Arizona and there was something that needed to change. I needed to get my changeup to a point where it was a factor in the game and it seemed to show up tonight."

On the heels of a 10-strikeout game by rookie Erasmo Ramirez on Monday, the Mariners recorded back-to-back double-digit strikeout starts for the first time since Paul Abbott and Freddy Garcia pulled that off on Aug. 23-24, 1999.

The A's struck out 14 times in all against three Mariners pitchers Tuesday, giving them 25 for the first two games of the series.

"That's a lot of strikeouts," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "We don't typically strike out that much. This wasn't our finest hour, the last two days offensively."

The Mariners ended their streak of scoreless innings at 25 with a pair of runs in the third off A's lefty Travis Blackley.

Franklin Gutierrez just missed a three-run home run, settling for an RBI double high off the center-field fence that scored Dustin Ackley. Kyle Seager followed with a sacrifice fly to center, though Gutierrez was thrown out trying to take third on the play.

Wells scored the go-ahead run in the eighth when he singled, stole second and raced home on Ryan's base hit to right.

Vargas struck out five straight A's in the first and second innings before hitting Jonny Gomes on the elbow with an 0-2 pitch leading off the third. That left him two shy of the club record of seven consecutive strikeouts by Mark Langston, set in 1984.

The 29-year-old lefty struck out the side again in the fifth and equaled his career high of 10 when he whiffed two more in the sixth.

Vargas was sailing on a one-hitter until Yoenis Cespedes ripped a solo shot in the seventh that cut the lead to 2-1. After a two-out double by Seth Smith, Vargas was replaced by Brandon League, who allowed the tying run on a single by Gomes.

That left Vargas with a no-decision, as he remains 7-7 with a 4.54 ERA. But this was a big step in the right direction after his recent struggles.

"You knew that game in Arizona was just one of those games and he'd get back here and know how to attack these guys," Ryan said. "He was his usual self, getting ahead in the count, working all his pitches, doubling up, doing all kinds of different things. That was the Vargo we expect."

It wasn't quite the Vargas the A's expected, however.

"You come in here and I think we were pretty confident facing a pitching staff like this -- not saying anything against them, we had just been swinging the bats pretty well," A's right fielder Josh Reddick said after an 0-for-4 night. "It's just how the game goes at certain stretches."

Said Melvin: "You give him some credit, but we probably didn't have our best at-bats of the month today. This is a guy we have history with and struck out a few more than you would expect out of a guy like that. And he pitched well. Fastballs inside, changeups away, that was it."

Ichiro, playing designated hitter for the first time this season, went 2-for-3 to extend his hitting streak to seven games. He's 14-for-29 in that span, raising his batting average to .277.

Greg Johns is a reporter for 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.