Bradley, Gutierrez break through to lead Seattle past A’s
SEATTLE – This was the kind of 1-2 pitching punch the Seattle Mariners expected.
Just not from guys named Fister and Vargas.
Jason Vargas threw six innings for Seattle, and Milton Bradley and Franklin Gutierrez came through with bat-shattering run scoring hits in the Mariners 4-2 win over the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday night.
A day after Doug Fister tossed eight scoreless innings, Vargas did his part as the back of the Mariners rotation gave Seattle its first series victory of the young season.
“He’s got great poise on that mound,” Seattle manager Don Wakamatsu said. “He makes one mistake early giving up a home run to center field, but he battled and fought back.”
Vargas (1-1) might be a placeholder until Cliff Lee returns from the disabled list and gives Seattle arguably the best Nos. 1 and 2 starters in the American League with Felix Hernandez.
Until then, though, Vargas and Fister have so far been just fine.
Vargas’ only mistake was a middle-of-the-zone fastball that Jake Fox hit for a two-run homer to center in the second inning – a ball Gutierrez felt he could have robbed if he hadn’t been playing so shallow. The homer was Fox’s first of the season, snapping an 0 for 11 streak.
Otherwise, Vargas scattered five hits, struck out six and walked none. He set down nine of the final 10 batters he faced, and Seattle starters have now gone 14 innings without allowing a walk.
Vargas started using a cut fastball again on Wednesday, a pitch he shelved last year as he recovered from hip surgery in favor of gaining better control of his breaking ball.
“For me to be able to go back to it didn’t take a whole lot of time,” Vargas said. “A couple of bullpen sessions with it and tonight was really the first time we used it.”
Seattle reliever Brandon League worked a scoreless seventh and eighth innings and David Aardsma converted his fourth save – he’s closed all of Seattle’s wins – with a perfect ninth. Aardsma has converted 14 straight saves since last August.
Oakland got just one baserunner after the fourth inning.
“Last night I thought (Fister) really located well, pitched well,” Oakland manager Bob Geren said. “Today, I thought we had some opportunities where we didn’t hit the pitches we should have hit.”
As well as Vargas threw, he was left looking for a little offensive help until the Mariners bats started coming up with clutch, two-out hits.
Bradley was first. Down 2-0 in the fifth, he dumped the first pitch from Oakland starter Gio Gonzalez into left field, sending his bat barrel nearly to third base. The hit scored two and Gutierrez’s hit an inning later scored Adam Moore with the go-ahead run.
Bradley, on his eighth big league team, finally made a mark with the Mariners on Tuesday night with a game-winning three-run homer in the eighth inning. But he was drawing the ire of fans after just one at-bat on Wednesday.
Bradley rounded third too far after Moore’s infield hit in the second and was tagged out during a rundown between third and home for the Mariners’ second base-running blunder of the inning.
The cheers were back a few innings later. Seattle loaded the bases on an infield single by Ichiro Suzuki and walks to Chone Figgins and Gutierrez. Jose Lopez fouled out behind third, but Bradley muscled Gonzalez’s first offering into left.
An inning later, Moore led off with a single and moved to second on Figgins’ two-out walk off reliever Chad Gaudin (0-1). Gutierrez’s single to left was picked clean by Eric Patterson, but he bobbled getting the ball from his glove and the lumbering Moore beat the throw home. Lopez then followed with another single to score Figgins.
“These guys are playing hard and the key was after those two baserunning mistakes they didn’t give up and kept playing hard and played a good ball game,” Wakamatsu said.
NOTES: Suzuki snapped an 0 for 13 skid with a 45-foot dribbler up the first-base line in the fifth inning. … Seattle swapped starters for the weekend, pushing RHP Ian Snell back to Sunday and moving LHP Ryan Rowland-Smith to Saturday. Snell has been out of town after a death in his family. … Oakland INF Mark Ellis missed his third straight game with a strained hamstring, but Geren said he is improving. … The crowd of 15,978 was second-smallest in Safeco Field history.
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