Ok, well maybe it’s a little to soon to label the Mariners a juggernaut. Really it wasn’t that long ago that they were struggling to score two runs a game and looking lost in the field.
But over the past week and half, the Mariners have looked something beyond competent, they look competitive.
They won their fourth game in a row and they won their 8th game in the last 12.
Big congratulations to Jason Vargas, who picked up his first win since August 14, 2010. He was winless in his last 13 starts and he’d lost his last nine decisions.
“I didn’t realize how long it had been till I thought about,” he said. “It was nice to get a W. I feel like I’ve been throwing the ball well. Even the last game against Oakland, I felt like I threw the ball well. The one inning got away. I feel like I pitched a lot better than the numbers showed.”
Most surprising of all, the go-ahead hit came from the unlikeliest of source – Jack Cust, who is trying to fight his way out of a frustrating slump one extra base hit at a time.
Down 4-3 in the seventh inning, the Mariner took advantage of the struggles of set-up man Bobby Jenks. The one-time White Sox closer has been awful this season, coming into the game with a 7.36 ERA in nine appearances. His ERA would only go up after his latest outing.
Jenks gave up a single to left from Ichiro and a double to left from Chone Figgins putting runners on second and third with no outs. Jenks struck out Milton Bradley, but Miguel Olivo managed a ground ball to second to score Ichiro to cut to tie the game at 4-4
Jenks then walked Justin Smoak, not giving the hot-hitting first baseman anything really good to hit.
It seemed like a good plan with first base open and Cust with his sub-.200 batting average coming to the plate.
But Jenks left a 1-0 fastball over the middle of the plate and Cust drove the ball deep to left-center hitting it high off the Green Monster. It scored Figgins and gave the Mariners a 5-4 lead.
“That was a big hit at a big time for us,” Wedge said. “You saw him come through in a big situation for us tonight. That should be a step for him.”
Given a lead for the second time in the game, Vargas made sure he stayed in line for the win. In the bottom of the seventh, he retired Darnell McDonald, Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia in order.
He left after pitching seven innings, giving up four runs on eight hits, while walking two and striking out three.
Seattle gave him an early lead as Justin Smoak extended his hitting streak to 11 games, by singling through the left side against Red Sox starter Daisuke Matsuzaka in the first inning to score two runs.
But Vargas couldn’t hold the lead.
“They had some things go their way early,” Vargas said, referring to a Mike Cameron second inning home run that traveled about 300 feet and snuck around the “Pesky Pole” in right for a cheap homer.
“I thought it was a fly ball to right, but then I remembered where we were,” Vargas said. “There’s really nothing you can do. You just kind of move on.”
In the third inning, Boston had three consecutive singles with two outs to score a pair of runs and take the lead. Cameron continued to haunt his former team in the fourth inning ripping a solo home run to left over the Green Monster to push the lead to 4-2.
But Vargas kept battling, and wouldn’t allow another run.
“The way Vargas threw those last three innings, he really bowed his neck and made pitches,” Wedge said. “He gave us every opportunity to get us back in the game.”
A one-run lead is never safe in Fenway, particularly with the Red Sox caliber of hitters in the lineup. Jamey Wright came on pitched a 1-2-3 innning in the eighth, including a big strikeout of Kevin Youkilis, for his 11th scoreless outing in 12 appearances.
For a moment in the ninth, the Mariners lead seemed in doubt. Boston’s Jed Lowrie jumped on a fastball up from Seattle closer Brandon League.
The ball rocketed to center field in the “triangle” area where the Fenway fence starts jutting in all different directions. But Saunders had a good read on the ball and made a tough catch near the fence for the first out.
“This is by far the toughest outfield to play,” Saunders said. “There’s little angles here and there and it gets really deep out there. I had the ball all the way and the last second I took a look. With the game on the line, I was going to go for it. Luckily he hit it a few feet short.”
League had retired the next two hitters without incidence to record his sixth save of the season.