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Originally published September 29, 2012 at 7:15 PM | Page modified September 29, 2012 at 7:44 PM

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Vargas finishes his strongest season in major leagues

Other than the final score, Jason Vargas couldn't have asked to finish his season on a stronger note. Vargas spent much of Saturday handcuffing...

Seattle Times staff reporter

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OAKLAND, Calif. — Other than the final score, Jason Vargas couldn't have asked to finish his season on a stronger note.

Vargas spent much of Saturday handcuffing the Oakland Athletics on a lone run over seven innings to finish his strongest season in the majors. The timing could not have been better for a pitcher heading into his final arbitration year and looking like the potential recipient of a multiyear offer from the Mariners this winter.

Vargas said his biggest accomplishment was not falling into a second-half slump as he had in recent seasons.

"I think it was being able to take the first half into the second half," Vargas said. "That had been a struggle for me. So to do as well as I did after the break, it's awesome for me. It's that next step. That and being able to limit those games where you let them get out of control. I had a few early and had a couple of hiccups, but nothing where I let the game get out of control."

Vargas entered the day needing just 4-2/3 innings to reach 215. The Mariners have not had two pitchers throw at least 215 innings the same year since Jamie Moyer and Freddy Garcia a decade ago.

But Vargas and Felix Hernandez have now both topped that mark.

Vargas had been 30-3 in games in which the Mariners gave him at least four runs of support, but a late bullpen collapse in this one denied him his 15th victory of the season. Instead, he finishes with a 14-11 record, a 3.85 earned-run average and 217-1/3 innings pitched.

He struck out seven batters and walked just one, carrying a 4-1 lead into the eighth.

"I'm just so proud of the way he's pitched all year long, in particular the way he's finished this year," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "He easily could have had 17, 18 wins but still ended the year with a tremendous record, great numbers. I love the way he finished it off today and how he pitched and how he competed. He put together a complete season and really came into his own this year."

Notes

• A solo homer by Kyle Seager, followed by a two-run blast from Michael Saunders, both in the fourth inning, gave the Mariners long balls in 18 consecutive games. That's one shy of the team record set back in 1999. Saunders, Seager and Justin Smoak each have 19 home runs. For Saunders, he could join the 20-20 club for homers and stolen bases if he keeps hitting for power.

"Right now, I'm not really concerned about it," said Saunders, who stole his 21st base in the second inning. "We have four games left now. At the end of the year, I'll reflect on my performance. Sometimes, numbers don't always do a player justice."

• Oakland scored its only run off Vargas in unusual fashion in the fourth inning when Yoenis Cespedes made it home from first base on a single to right field. That's only happened seven times this season with just a runner on first base — though the M's have been victimized twice by it in less than two weeks.

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