Vargas' shutout hinders A's run at best record

Vargas' shutout hinders A's run at best record

Vargas' shutout hinders A's run at best record

ANAHEIM -- Jason Vargas had not won a game at Angel Stadium since he defeated the Mariners on June 17, but in his last home start of his first season with the Halos, the left-hander turned in quite a performance.

Vargas twirled a four-hit shutout and faced just 29 batters as the Angels defeated the Athletics, 3-0, on Tuesday night. After allowing four runs in six innings a week ago in Oakland, Vargas struck out five, walked only one and retired 15 in a row from the second to the seventh innings.

"I think anytime you go up against the team that won the division, you want to pitch well," Vargas said. "You expect to go out there and give them your best, and tonight we came out on top."

Vargas' 10th career complete game and fifth shutout moved the Angels to 15-8 in September.

The Athletics, who would've tied the Boston Red Sox for the best record in the American League with a win, had scored 49 runs in their previous five games and had not been shut out since Aug. 4, but Vargas had all his pitches working and weaved his way through the AL West champion's lineup.

"Just like he normally does, keeping guys off balance and locating well and getting early outs," Athletics catcher Derek Norris said. "He kept his pitch count down, and that kept him going late in the ballgame. That's the guy they wanted when they got him from Seattle, to do just that and help the bullpen out, and that's what he did."

Vargas' season was shortened when he went on the DL with a blood clot near his left armpit, causing him to miss 47 games, but -- as Norris suggested -- the Angels have been pleased with what he has given them.

"He's pitched well," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Unfortunately, with him missing almost eight weeks, he's not going to get to that 200-innning plateau. But if you look at how he's pitched, not only this year, but the last four or five years of his career, he's been as consistent as any pitcher in our league. I think he's pitched very well for us. There have been some games that have gotten away from him, but for the most part, he's definitely given us a chance when he goes out there."

And Tuesday, when Vargas became the first Angels lefty to toss two shutouts in a season since Chuck Finley in 1994, was one of those nights.

"It's fun every time when you can just sit back behind home plate and put your glove out there knowing he's going to hit that target," Angels catcher Hank Conger said. "He mixed speeds really well tonight, really moved the ball in and out and did a great job."

While Vargas was shutting down the Oakland offense, Howie Kendrick and Josh Hamilton provided the lefty with more support than he needed.

When Kendrick returned from a stint on the DL with a sprained left knee on Sept. 13, the Minor league season was already in the books so he wasn't coming off a rehab assignment.

Turns out, he didn't need one.

"You just never know when a guy is coming off the DL, but you gotta figure it anyone can do it, Howie could," Scioscia said. "This guy has really put the ball in play. It seems like he hasn't missed a beat since he came off the DL and he's been getting some big hits for us."

With one out in the first inning, Kendrick homered -- his second in as many nights -- off Athletics starter A.J. Griffin. The second baseman finished 1-for-3 and is hitting .317 (13-for-41) since he came off the shelf.

Hamilton provided the rest of the Angels' offense with a two-run single in the third.

Although Vargas said returning to the Angels "would be ideal," he is a free agent at the end of the season and his future after he starts Sunday's season finale in Texas is up in the air.

"Free agency gets complicated," Scioscia said. "There's no doubt that he's given our rotation a boost as he's come back into it from being injured. You'd love to see him in an Angel uniform, but we've been through this before. You just never know how free agency works out."

William Boor is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.