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July 21, 2012 at 8:33 PM

Mariners pitchers help offense get away with one on the road

Very few teams win games scoring just two runs in the first inning while striking out 15 times. But the Mariners just pulled that off tonight thanks to some stellar pitching by Jason Vargas and the bullpen.
Vargas didn’t have his best stuff, but hung tough long enough to make it through six innings with no earned runs allowed. And the work by Shawn Kelley, Oliver Perez, Brandon League and Tom Wilhelmsen after that earned Vargas his 10th win on a night the team’s bullpen was a bit fatigued following last night’s marathon.
Despite running up his pitch count early and allowing baserunners in all but one frame, Vargas did enough.
“I’d rather not have baserunners but I was able to get in the stretch and limit the damage,” Vargas said. “I really wasn’t in the strike zone that much tonight. I was somehow able to get them to swing and put it in play.”
Vargas knew the stakes given the 14-inning game Friday and didn’t want to bow out early.
“I knew we had kind of stretched ourselfves last night,” he said. “I mean, I knew we had (Shawn) Kelley back tonight, but I think that was why I was getting more frustrated. I kept going 3-2 to everybody, it felt like. To come out with the win and be able to hold that together, it was huge.”
Yes, it was.
Mariners manager Eric Wedge wasn’t pleased at all with the offense, which struck out five times in a row on two occasions during the game. There have been 32 strikeouts by the M’s in the two games here and only two runs scored after the first inning in both games combined.
“As good as we were in Kansas City, we’ve actually gotten away from some of the things that led us to success there offensively,” Wedge said. “When we get in trouble, it’s just pretty consistent with where it is — you’re taking pitches that you need to be hacking at, especially early in the count on hitter’s counts. And you’re swinging at breaking balls in the dirt or high fastballs. It’s the big leagues, we’ve got to be better than that.”

Good thing for the Mariners that the bullpen showed up. After Ichiro’s throwing error — his first this season and the first by the Mariners after 12 errorless games in a row — scored an unearned run in the seventh, the tying run was at seocnd with none out. Wedge came out to make a pitching change and made sure his infielders knew what to do if an expected bunt was laid down.
He told them not to go to third unless absolutely certain they could get the out there. Also, to attack the ball aggressivley because Sean Rodriguez was quick up the line.
Rodriguez laid down a beautiful bunt to the left side, and Shawn Kelley — who had just come in — pounced on it. He nabbed Rodriguez by a half-step at first. If Rodriguez gets on there, you have runners at the corners and none out and the M’s probably lose.
But Kelley made the biggest play of the night.
“I knew there was no play at third,” he said. “My only chance was to get there as quick as i could and get it to first and get an out. And I was able to.”
He then got B.J. Upton to pop out foul for a key second out.
Oliver Perez then came on and struck out Carlos Pena.
Perez struck out Ben Zobrist to lead off the eighth and then League and Wilhelmsen notched five more outs in a row to end an improbable win.
“That’s a great job, I think,” Perez said of the bullpen’s work. “Every time we get an opportunity like that, coming into the game with a lead, it’s our job to finish it like that. Vargas pitched a good game and we got him the win.”
They did indeed. And bailed the offense out big-time in the process.

Comments | Topics: Oliver Perez


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