Mariners: Brendan Ryan's eighth-inning single gives Seattle a 3-2 victory over Oakland
Brendan Ryan's RBI single in eighth helps Mariners snap 2-2 tie in victory over Oakland. Starter Jason Vargas tied a career high with 10 strikeouts in 6-2/3 innings but settled for a no-decision.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Oakland @ M's, 12:40 p.m., ROOT
It seems the only way these Mariners are going to be able to win anything this series is by burying their opponent with an avalanche of strikeouts.
And that's just what they did for a second night in a row, with Jason Vargas leading the way by tying a career high with 10 strikeouts to match Erasmo Ramirez's performance of 24 hours earlier. But the Mariners needed more strikeouts Tuesday night from a pair of relievers in the final two innings before earning a 3-2 win over the Oakland Athletics.
Charlie Furbush fanned the side in the eighth to keep the score tied and then — after a go-ahead single by Brendan Ryan in the bottom of the frame — Tom Wilhelmsen struck out another batter to end a perfect ninth. A Mariners staff that has 25 strikeouts the first two games against Oakland had actually been in control most of the way thanks to a dominant-looking Vargas getting back to basics with his fastball.
"That's the biggest part of my game, being able to control the fastball," Vargas said. "Everything else plays off that for me. Being able to control the zone early ... it just made them be aggressive and I was able to work off that with the changeup."
Vargas devoted plenty of time to his changeup in a between-starts bullpen session. He had been torched for 20 home runs before the season's halfway point and knew something had to change.
"We were just not getting the same types of swings and misses and even takes," Vargas said. "It was just something that needed to be addressed. Really finishing the pitch and not changing the arm action. So, the bullpen was extended a bit, and it paid off."
Paid off big-time in a game that saw Vargas carry a 2-0 lead into the seventh inning, having allowed only one hit. But Yoenis Cespedes hit a solo homer and then a two-out double by Seth Smith ended the night for Vargas after 6-2/3 innings and brought in Brandon League.
A crowd of 12,411 at Safeco Field looked on stunned as Jonny Gomes singled off League to tie the score. It was the second night in a row that a Mariners starting pitcher had fanned 10 batters without qualifying for the victory.
The Mariners almost didn't secure their third home win in 11 tries until Furbush ended a challenging eighth by striking out Brandon Inge with two men on. Casper Wells then led off the eighth with a single off reliever Jim Miller, who had come on in place of starter Travis Blackley.
Wells stole second on a Dustin Ackley strikeout and then Ryan stepped in and drilled a ball just over the head of leaping second baseman Jemile Weeks to put Seattle ahead.
"I was just happy to see the ball hit some grass," Ryan said.
"I didn't want to be passive up there and take a third strike. Because I'm hitting .170, .180. I'm not the guy you want to walk, so I'm just glad it worked out."
Mariners manager Eric Wedge felt more comfortable leaving Ryan in to hit in that situation — especially with the A's warming up a left-hander in the bullpen to negate pinch-hitter John Jaso.
"He's been staying in the middle of the field better, seeing the ball better, and his balance has been better," Wedge said. "You can tell that by his takes. And obviously, he stepped up big."
Scoring hasn't been easy for the Mariners, who had gone 25 consecutive innings without a run before Franklin Gutierrez doubled to open the scoring in the third.
Kyle Seager hit a sacrifice fly off Blackley that inning to make it 2-0. But Blackley allowed just one more hit and no runs the rest of the way.
The back-to-back 10-strikeout performances were the first for the Mariners since Paul Abbott and Freddy Garcia on Aug. 23-24, 1999.
"You could tell right from the beginning of the ballgame that he was more aggressive," Wedge said of Vargas. "His arm action was more consistent. His changeup fed off his fastball very well. He just really commanded the ballgame and did a great job."