On the heels of a season-low four-inning stint in Chicago last weekend, Vargas managed just 4 2/3 innings on a 91-degree night as the Twins snapped a seven-game losing streak to the Mariners.
Despite his rough go in Chicago, Vargas was 6-1 with a 2.55 ERA over his last 11 starts and in the midst of the best season of his career. But the 29-year-old struggled again Wednesday while allowing eight hits and six runs (five earned) as his record fell to 13-9 with a 3.90 ERA.
Vargas is third in the American League in innings pitched at 184 2/3, not far off his career-high 201 from last season, but manager Eric Wedge said he doesn't think Vargas is hitting any sort of wall.
"This guy has worked so hard this year, just from a physical conditioning with his routine and I think that's going to see him to the end," Wedge said. "I don't see a guy out there laboring. His arm is still working good. He's still in good shape. I think he's going to be OK."
On a hot night in Minnesota, Vargas nearly boiled over after Josh Willingham hit a home run leading off the fifth to make it 6-0.
Vargas felt he'd struck out the Twins cleanup hitter with a 1-2 changeup on the black, then had to be pushed away from home plate umpire Doug Eddings by catcher Miguel Olivo after Willingham drove his next pitch over the left-field fence.
"I thought I executed what I needed to do and that was that," Vargas said. "We obviously had a disagreement, but that's about it."
As for his next offering?
"That was a bad pitch, a fastball away that cut right over the plate," Vargas said. "The guy has 31 home runs. And now he has 32."
Wedge understood his pitcher's lousy mood.
"He was upset and frustrated," said the skipper. "He's just out there competing, so I just wanted to make sure it didn't go any further. I think everybody handled it well. You get hot sometimes in this game when you're competing and that's what he was doing."
Trevor Plouffe also homered against Vargas, who has given up five long balls in his past two outings and a career-high 31 on the season, including 25 on the road. He's tied for second in the American League in most home runs allowed, one behind the Orioles' Tommy Hunter.
Nearly as frustrating were a pair of leadoff walks to the Nos. 8 and 9 hitters leading off the third, which set up a three-run inning for the Twins even before they started playing long ball.
"Just command," Wedge said when asked where Vargas' struggles have come from in the past two outings. "He walked those two guys and they both ended up scoring. He just hasn't had quite the same command we've seen him have really all year long."
Willingham said the Twins were rewarded for their patience against Vargas, who had a 2.08 ERA in 13 innings with two no-decisions in his previous pair of meetings with Minnesota this year.
"The thing he does so well is mix up speeds," Willingham said. "He's got a really, really good changeup and locates the ball well. We were patient. We drew some walks. When we got some runners on tonight, we were able to capitalize, and I think that was the reason."
The Mariners took the opposite tack with Deduno, who improved to 5-2 with a 3.72 ERA in 10 starts.
Deduno had walked 37 batters in his first 51 innings this season -- including six in his first Major League loss 10 days earlier in Seattle -- but the 29-year-old Dominican had no walks and nine strikeouts in an overpowering outing.
"His stuff was very similar to last time, but the difference was obviously the walks," said third baseman Kyle Seager, who had one of Seattle's two hits. "I remember saying after the first game, the stuff was right there, he just wasn't throwing strikes that day.
"Today he was not only throwing strikes, but good strikes. He wasn't giving us anything to drive. He just really located."
The Mariners managed a single by Trayvon Robinson with one out in the first, but Deduno then mowed down 18 straight batters before Seager's base hit with one out in the seventh.
The Twins added three runs off rookie reliever Carter Capps in the seventh and another off Lucas Luetge in the eighth as they racked up 16 hits and won for just the fourth time in their past 20 games, improving their AL-worst record to 53-77.
Seattle had outscored Minnesota 31-10 over their previous seven meetings and still leads the season series 7-2 going into Thursday afternoon's final game between the clubs this year.