SEATTLE -- Take away his throwing error on the first batter of the game and Seattle's Jason Vargas was nearly flawless.
The Mariners left-hander is on a pretty impressive streak of four straight starts where he's been close to perfect."He was about as consistent start to finish as you could ask a starting pitcher to be," Seattle manager Eric Wedge said.Vargas went seven innings and denied former college teammate Jered Weaver another chance at becoming the first pitcher in the majors to reach seven wins, and Seattle beat the Los Angeles Angels 3-0 on Wednesday night.
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The first of 19 meetings this season between the AL West rivals went the way of the Mariners, thanks to another gem from Vargas, who ran his streak of scoreless innings to 16. Vargas (3-2) threw nine shutout innings last week against Baltimore, then followed up by holding the Angels to four singles in seven innings.While most of the attention goes to the arms at the top of Seattle's pitching staff -- Felix Hernandez and rookie Michael Pineda mostly -- Vargas has won three straight decisions and allowed just one earned run in his past three times on the mound."It feels good. I'm just trying to build, just trying to stay where I'm at and not really change anything," Vargas said.Jack Cust provided the offense with two RBI singles and Justin Smoak added an RBI double for the Mariners.Vargas' sudden turn of success followed a streak of nine straight losses dating to last season. He's gotten better in each of his past four starts. When Vargas broke his losing streak on April 29 at Boston, he gave up four runs and eight hits. He followed up with a win over Texas where Vargas allowed one run and six hits.Then came last week at Baltimore, when the lefty went nine innings for just the second time in his career, even though he didn't get a decision in the Mariners' extra-inning loss. He became the fourth pitcher in Seattle history to throw nine shutout innings and come away with a no-decision.But Vargas didn't let his shutout streak end.He escaped a first-inning jam Wednesday by striking out Howie Kendrick to end the threat with Erick Aybar on first. He again used the strikeout to wiggle free in the second, getting Peter Bourjos looking with Mark Trumbo at second. From there, Vargas didn't allow a runner past first, tying his career high with nine strikeouts, including one of Bobby Abreu to end the seventh. He allowed two walks and threw a season-high 115 pitches. In his past two starts, Vargas has allowed 11 singles, walked three and struck out 13."He's been very consistent with his delivery, with his release point, with his arm slot and that all leads him in the right direction," Wedge said.The Angels threatened in the eighth after Vargas left. Jamey Wright allowed two walks and Alberto Callaspo's infield single to load the bases with two outs. He fell behind pinch hitter Hank Conger 2-0 then got him looking at a 3-2 pitch on the inside corner.Brandon League, who last week blew three save opportunities, then pitched the ninth for his 10th save in 13 chances.Weaver (6-4) sprinted to a 6-0 start to begin the season, then hit a wall of losses that continued against Seattle, although the Angels' struggling offense didn't help. Los Angeles has gone 21 innings without scoring.Weaver wasn't battered around by the Mariners, but it didn't matter on a night he needed to be perfect to match his former Long Beach State teammate.Chone Figgins doubled with one out in the first and scored when Cust dumped a soft liner over the infield. In the third, Ichiro Suzuki reached on an infield single that bounced off the plate and scored on Smoak's double into the right field corner. Remembering that Weaver threw a 2-1 changeup in his previous at-bat, Cust waited and jumped on a 2-1 change from Weaver and singled to center to score Smoak."I've been feeling my swing come around, driving the ball a little bit more," Cust said. "It's a long season and the start wasn't what I was obviously hoping for. ... I've been feeling more comfortable lately and seeing the ball better."Weaver went six innings, giving up seven hits and struck out four.
The Angels were shut out in consecutive games for the second time this season. Boston posted shutouts on April 23 and 24. ... Seattle CF Franklin Gutierrez made his season debut after missing the first 41 games with stomach issues. Gutierrez went 0-for-4. ... The Angels went 15-4 last season against Seattle.