After much debate and speculation, Jason Vargas was still a Seattle Mariner following Tuesday’s 1 p.m. Major League Baseball trade deadline.
Later that night, the left-hander went out and pitched like he wanted to remain a Mariner 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 12 of their last 16 games. The win also meant Seattle has won four out of its last five series.
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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 one 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 again after the start.
“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 convinced to keep Vargas around.
“To have a pitcher that you can trust and count on to out there and give you a chance to win ball games 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 an otherwise solid outing came in the third inning. He gave up a pair of one-out singles to Jeff Mathis and Moises Sierra bringing up to the plate British Columbia native Brett Lawrie. Despite having friends and family and many Canadians in attendance cheering him on, Lawrie was in the midst of a horrible series that included a four-strikeout game on Monday with a broken bat over his knee and a strikeout in his first at-bat against Vargas. But Lawrie broke the strike of punchouts with a double to left to score both runners.
But that would be the only runs that Vargas allowed the rest of the way.
He retired 12 of the next 13 batters he faced.
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.
Dustin Ackley hit the first pitch he saw from Laffey over the fence. Ackley admits that he's going to swing at the first pitch of the game often since it's a fastball and usually a strike. I was more impressed with him beating out a pair of inning ending double plays to allow runs to score. Wedge was also pleased.
“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.”
Congrats to Brendan Ryan for fighting his was back over the Mendoza line. Ryan went 3-for-4 with an RBI and raised his average to .205 on the season. Not bad considering he was hitting .156 on June 15. Since that day, he's hitting. 279 (31-for-111)
In reward of fighting his way back to the 200s, his teammates gave him a beer and ketchup shower.
I would transcribe the quotes, but it's just better to listen to his interview. It's typical Ryan.
postgame notes ...