Vargas strong vs. Blue Jays for 12th win of year

Vargas strong vs. Blue Jays for 12th win of year

Vargas strong vs. Blue Jays for 12th win of year
SEATTLE -- On the day the Mariners chose not to deal Jason Vargas at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, the fast-improving left-hander rewarded that decision Tuesday with his career-best 12th victory as Seattle rolled past Toronto, 7-2.

The surging Mariners captured their sixth straight -- the team's longest win streak since mid-May of last year -- and have the second-best record in the American League since the All-Star break at 13-6 to raise their overall mark to 49-57.

Tuesday's win was the fifth straight for Vargas, improving his record to 12-7 with a 3.71 ERA as he gave up two runs on five hits in seven innings. Now in his fourth year with the Mariners, the 29-year-old said he's just glad he'll remain part of the Seattle scene after the Trade Deadline passed.

"I think it would weigh on anybody, but I tried to do my best to just focus on what I had to do tonight," he said of the trade rumors. "I was excited when 1 o'clock hit and as time got narrower and narrower, my chances of getting traded got smaller and smaller.

"We've been playing really well. With most of the pieces still in place, that shows a lot of confidence in what we're trying to do, and to be a part of that is great for me."

Vargas went 5-0 with a 1.64 ERA in six July starts, a marked difference from his 1-5, 5.09 ERA in July last year. His five wins tied the franchise record for most victories in any month, the first since Felix Hernandez in September 2009.

"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," said Mariners manager Eric Wedge. "As consistent as he's been, as reliable as he's been, that's what every team's looking for."

On the flip side, the Mariners got to Toronto starter Aaron Laffey early and often, starting with a home run on the first pitch of the game as Dustin Ackley continued the Mariners' recent trend of getting on the board early by sending his seventh long ball of the season into the right-field seats.

"I'm always looking to hit the first pitch of the game," Ackley said. "You usually think that's going to be a fastball. They're trying to get ahead. Fortunately enough, I got a good one up to hit and I didn't miss it this time."

The Mariners then plated three more runs on four hits in the second against Laffey, who pitched in relief for Seattle during the first half of last season.

"They clearly came out with a game plan to jump on the first-pitch fastball, which they did on the first pitch of the game and a number of hitters throughout the order," said Toronto skipper John Farrell. "They went and attacked him."

The Mariners have scored 40 runs in the first two innings over their last 16 games, a marked improvement from their early-season woes in that regard. Seattle is now 23-13 when scoring in the first inning.

Toronto cut the early lead in half on Brett Lawrie's two-RBI double in the third, but Vargas retired 10 straight after that inning and went on to his first career win against Toronto.

Seattle got a nice contribution from the bottom of its order. Brendan Ryan, hitting ninth, went 3-for-4 with an RBI to finally edge his average above the Mendoza line at .205. The slick-fielding shortstop is batting .279 with 15 RBIs over his last 37 games.

His Mariners teammates gave Ryan a beer and ketchup shower afterward to celebrate an achievement that normally wouldn't draw such joy. But that's how things work when a team starts winning.

"I'm still trying to get ketchup out of my ears," Ryan said. "Good times. I didn't want to rain on the parade or anything, but it can always dip right back down. But it's good for the team. I'm assuming that's what we're getting at, Mr. Mendoza and all that."

Recently promoted left fielder Trayvon Robinson went 2-for-3 with a double, an RBI and two runs from the No. 8 spot, while catcher Miguel Olivo was 2-for-4 with a double and two RBIs from the seven hole.

"Anytime you get a chance to be out there and play a part of a win, it's awesome," Robinson said. "This is my second time around, so I know I've got a job to do. I've got to score runs, put balls in play, play good defense and do what I can do to help the team win by any means."

That bottom-of-the-order production helped Ackley deliver three RBIs from his leadoff spot, the final two coming on fielder's choices when he hustled to beat out potential double-play grounders.

The recent offensive surge -- with Seattle scoring four or more runs in each of its six-straight wins -- has lifted the Mariners' batting average over the Mendoza line at Safeco as well. Seattle is now hitting .207 at home compared to .255 on the road.

"I just think they're getting beyond some mental hurdles," Wedge said. "They're just going out there and playing baseball."

And the end result has been the best stretch of the season and a growing sense of confidence.

"This is fun," said veteran reliever Josh Kinney, who struck out the side in the ninth to finish things off. "We're playing good ball. Guys are feeling good. This is what it's supposed to feel like. You come to the park and look around and guys are expecting to come here and do well. This is awesome. This is how you roll."

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.