Jason Vargas has had one or two decent innings tonight, but his overall result was rather pitiful considering how badly this team needed some innings. Vargas in through five, but trails 8-2 on the scoreboard and is likely done for the night. Or maybe not. No action yet in the bullpen. Vargas was at 85 pitches before he got his first out of that fifth inning. That’s just not acceptable.
Vargas left too many balls up early in the game and even when he settled down, he’d still walk guys out of nowhere with two out to prolong innings. He began the fifth by serving up a single to Billy Butler, then a double to Brayan Pena and an RBI single by Alberto Callaspo. Russell Branyan then compounded the problem by pulling a Bill Buckner on a Mark Teahen grounder that went for a two-base error.
One run scored on the play and another would come trotting home on a Mitch Maier groundout.
Vargas is at 91 pitches and Don Wakamatsu told me pre-game he’s going to ride him as long as possible if things get out of hand. Well, they’re now out of hand and the bullpen is dormant so far.
6:11 p.m.: Mike Sweeney just hit his 100th home run at Kauffman Stadium to highlight a two-run fourth that brings the Mariners a bit closer in a 5-2 game. Jack Wilson added a sacrifice fly later on in the inning after Adrian Beltre had singled and taken third on a single by Franklin Gutierrez. A fair bit of boos for Sweeney after his homer. Some fans here accused him over the airwaves of overblowing an injury his final season with the Royals in 2007 in order to sit on the sidelines and collect a big paycheck. Sounds ridiculous, but there you have it. There was about an equal amount of applause and he did tip his cap to the crowd, so that was nice.
Seattle is now out-hitting the Royals 6-5.
Jason Vargas has cut down on his pitches a bit, though a pair of two-out walks kept the second and third innings going a little longer. He’s at 62 pitches through three innings.
Ichiro helped thwart a rally in the top of the third when, with runners at the corners and one out, he took off for second as pitcher Bruce Chen made a pickoff move towards first base. Ichiro was then a dead duck at second, with Rob Johnson holding his ground at third. I know Ichiro’s thinking on that play. He’s trying to move up into scoring position to get his team a shot at as many runs as possible to overcome the early deficit. Often, if you get a good enough jump, the catcher won’t even bother risking a throw to second that could let the runner from third score.
But Ichiro guessed wrong because Chen made the pickoff move. And the Mariners wound up with zilch.
5:32 p.m.: Not a good start for Jason Vargas, who trails 5-0 after the first inning. Vargas walked the first batter he faced on four pitches, got a force out at second, then served up a 2-2 pitch to Billy Butler that got hammered well beyond the wall in left. In fact, it looked like it one-hopped off the new Royals Hall of Fame building positioned on the concourse back there. Left fielder Michael Saunders didn’t even move once the ball was launched in the air.
Vargas then yielded singles to Brayan Pena and Alberto Callaspo before giving up a two-run double down the right field line by Mark Teahen. Nearly gave up another double, to Mitch Maier, that only a sprinting Franklin Gutierrez’s Gold Glove kept from landing in the gap. Yuniesky Betancourt then drove a ball over the head of Saunders for another double and a fifth Kansas City run.
Vargas has to do a better job than this. He threw 32 pitches that inning. This bullpen can’t go another four or five innings tonight. That was the largest first inning for the Royals since Aug. 29, 2007.
5:08 p.m.: Jason Vargas on the mound tonight for Seattle and looking to improve on that five-and-out performance he gave in Texas last week. Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said pre-game he’d like to get seven innings out of Vargas tonight to help rest the bullpen. If things get out of hand early, say in the first few innings, Wakamatsu hinted he’d be prepared to let Vargas take a pounding just to soak up innings. So, a lot is riding on his shoulders tonight as Seattle goes for the sweep here.
1B Russell Branyan
2B Jose Lopez
DH Mike Sweeney
3B Adrian Beltre
CF Franklin Gutierrez
SS Jack Wilson
C Rob Johnson
LF Michael Saunders
LHP Jason Vargas
LF David DeJesus
2B Willie Bloomquist
DH Billy Butler
C Brayan Pena
3B Alberto Callaspo
1B Mark Teahen
CF Mitch Maier
SS Yuniesky Betancourt
RF Josh Anderson
LHP Bruce Chen