Jason Vargas made just one mistake Sunday against the Oakland Athletics, but it was enough to cost him his 15th victory. Vargas left an 88 mph fastball up in the zone in the fifth inning and Jonny Gomes, with two aboard, rocketed it off the facing of the upper deck in left, all the runs the A’s needed to beat the Mariners 4-2 in front of 14,403 at Safeco Field who apparently had nothing better to do.
The victory gave Oakland, fighting for a wild card berth, a sweep of the three-game series and finished off a nine-game home stand in which the Mariners went 3-6. Only a 6-0 Texas loss to Tampa Bay Sunday kept the Mariners from falling 17.5 games behind the Rangers in the AL West race, which would have matched Seattle’s season’s nadir.
The victory was Oakland’s ninth in a row on the road (most by the A’s since 2005) and its 19th in the last 22 contests. The Mariners were swept for the sixth time this year, in large part because they scored four runs, going 2-for-21 with runners in scoring position, including 1-for-10 Sunday.
“It’s just tough when we don’t loosen things up offensively,” manager Eric Wedge said. “We are getting our hits, but we’re not doing any damage with them. We need multiple guys in the lineup stringing hits together. Our at-bats are much more competitive than they were earlier in the year, but finishing off innings is what I’m not seeing. Somebody’s got to come through with runners in scoring position.”
Vargas cruised through 4.2 innings and retired nine in a row after getting the first two outs of the fifth. But Adam Rosales and Coco Crisp touched him for singles, then Gomes did his work. The three-run blast was his 16th of the season.
“The fastball was up and he (Gomes) got to it,” added Wedge. “Otherwise, Vargas had a good fastball today. I thought he threw a good ball game.”
The Mariners came back in the fifth when Alex Liddi, recently recalled from AAA Tacoma, singled and stole second. Michael Saunders followed by ripping a run-scoring triple down the left-field line to make it 3-1.
Kyle Seager led off the sixth by hitting Oakland starter Tommy Milone’s first pitch, a breaking ball, for his 17th home. That sliced Oakland’s lead to 3-2.
The A’s effectively dashed any Seattle comeback when Josh Donaldson led off the ninth with his seventh homer, off Josh Kinney.
The Mariners got a runner to second in the ninth when pinch hitter John Jaso led off with a double, but Mike Carp took a called third strike, Liddi flew out to right and Luis Jimenez flew out to left.
The Mariners take Monday off while they fly to Toronto for three starting Tuesday, then to Texas for three more. Wedge plans to start Erasmo Ramirez Tuesday against former Mariner Brandon Morrow. Ramirez, who last started for the Mariners June 30 (came out of the game with an injury) will take Blake Beavan’s turn in the rotation.
Seeking a career high 15th victory, Vargas instead took his 10th loss. He allowed four runs, three earned, in 7.0 innings.
Also scheduled to pitch during the Toronto series: Kevin Millwood Wednesday and Felix Hernandez Thursday.
NOTES: Despite the sweep, the Mariners have won 18 of their past 25 at Safeco Field . . . Mariners are 31-23 since the All-Star break, the third-best mark in the AL behind Oakland and Baltimore . . . Mariners have only one series remaining (the Blue Jays) against a club not in contention for the postseason . . . Jason Vargas has now made a major league-high 30 starts. Of the 32 home runs allowed by Vargas, only seven have come at Safeco Field . . . Jesus Montero’s fourth-inning single extended his hitting streak to eight games . . . Wedge gave Dustin Ackley the day off. Ackley appeared as a pinch hitter . . . Justin Smoak also got the day off. Smoak is hitting .189 with a .312 on-base percentage . . . Mariners series record now stands at 20-24-2.