After much debate and speculation, Jason Vargas was still with the Seattle Mariners following Tuesday’s 1 p.m. deadline for non-waiver trades.
Later that night, the left-hander went out and pitched as though he wants to remain with the Mariners for years to come.
With trade rumors and Internet reports swirling in the hours leading up to his start, Vargas wasn’t the least bit distracted. In fact, he appeared more focused, tossing seven solid innings, allowing just two runs on five hits and striking out four, while leading the Mariners to a 7-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays at Safeco Field.
It was the sixth straight win for the suddenly hot Mariners and 12th in their past 16 games. The win also meant Seattle has won four out of its past five series.
But Tuesday night was about Vargas, who improved to 12-7 on the season and is making a case for a contract extension.
“Jason Vargas set the tone,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said.
Of course, the tone for Vargas has been one of tension the past week. He knew he could be traded at any time. He couldn’t ignore the speculation.
“I think it would weigh on anyone,” he said of the trade rumors. “I tried to do my best to focus on what I had to do tonight. I was excited when 1 o’clock hit. To keep you here means they want you more than what was offered.”
And Vargas wants to be with the Mariners. He’s said it before, and he reiterated it after the game.
“This is the first place where I’ve really gotten to stay for a while,” he said. “It’s a great place – a great city, a great place to stay. I’d like to stay here for a while.”
It doesn’t seem as though Wedge would have to be persuaded to keep Vargas around.
“To have a pitcher that you can trust and count on to go out there and give you a chance to win ballgames is everything,” Wedge said. “As consistent as he’s been and as reliable as he’s been, that’s what every team is looking for up here.”
Vargas’ only serious hiccup in a solid outing came in the third inning. He gave up one-out singles to Jeff Mathis and rookie Moises Sierra, bringing up to the plate British Columbia native Brett Lawrie.
Lawrie, with many Canadian friends and family in attendance cheering him on, was in the midst of a horrible series that included a four-strikeout game Monday – when he broke a bat over his knee.
He struck out in his first at-bat against Vargas. But Lawrie broke the string of punchouts with a double to left to score both runners.
That would be the only runs Vargas allowed.
He retired 12 of the next 13 batters.
In the seventh, he worked his way into a spot of trouble, giving up a pair of singles. But with one out and runners on first and second, he got a pair of easy fly balls to end the inning.
“He knows himself very well,” Wedge said. “He’s a smart pitcher. He’s finding ways to work through different situations. He understands just where he’s at in regards to what’s he’s doing well on a particular day and what he isn’t doing well, and he’s smart with all.”
The Mariners (49-57) certainly made things easier for Vargas by beating up on former teammate and Toronto starter Aaron Laffey.
Dustin Ackley set the tone by hitting Laffey’s first pitch over the wall in right for his second leadoff homer of the season
The Mariners tacked on three runs in the second inning on RBI singles from Trayvon Robinson and Brendan Ryan and an RBI ground ball from Ackley.
The Mariners pushed another run across in the fifth when Ackley beat out a potential inning-ending double-play ball to score Robinson.
“You see the way Ackley gets down the line and guys like (Michael) Saunders and a few others, these guys play hard,” Wedge said. “If you can score a couple runs just from hustling, that says a great deal about our guys.”
Miguel Olivo added a two-run single in the fifth.
Ryan went 3-for-4 and pushed his batting average to .205, the first time he’s been over .200 since the first weeks of the season. Robinson and Olivo each added two email@example.com