SEATTLE — John Jaso lined a single over Detroit’s drawn-in infield in the eighth inning to drive in Michael Saunders with the tiebreaking run, Jason Vargas pitched eight strong innings and the Seattle Mariners beat the Tigers 2-1 on Wednesday night.
Jaso’s single off reliever Duane Below was hit so hard shortstop Jhonny Peralta barely had time to react before it was landing in the outfield grass and Saunders was jogging home with the go-ahead run. Saunders had led off the eighth inning with a pinch-hit double down the left-field line.
Vargas (4-2) threw a season-high eight innings, striking out six and giving up just five hits. He outpitched young Detroit starter Drew Smyly, who gave up just two hits but was pulled after the sixth.
Though Vargas had thrown only 90 pitches, Seattle manager Eric Wedge went to closer Brandon League in the ninth. League immediately fell behind Austin Jackson 3-0 and walked him on a 3-2 pitch. However, Jackson was quickly erased when shortstop Brendan Ryan made his third strong defensive play in the game, this one starting a 6-4-3 double play off the bat of Brennan Boesch. League then got Miguel Cabrera to end it for his eighth save in 10 chances this season.
Seattle took five of six from Detroit in the season series. The teams won’t play again in the regular season this year.
Saunders pinch-hit for Casper Wells to lead off the eighth inning and lined a double down the left-field line off Detroit reliever Luke Putkonen (0-1) in just his second major league appearance. Saunders advanced to third after Chone Figgins’ sacrifice bunt. That was it for Putkonen, who was replaced by Below to face Jaso.
With the infield drawn in, Below got the count to 2-2. After Jaso fouled off an inside fastball he lined an RBI single into left-center field to score Saunders. Jaso was thrown out trying to advance to second on the hit. Jaso had the game-winning RBI in Monday’s series opener when Seattle rallied for three runs in the ninth inning.
Seattle didn’t get its first hit off Smyly until one out in the fourth inning when Ichiro Suzuki softly served a single into left-center field. Suzuki scored when Kyle Seager lined Smyly’s pitch off the wall down the right-field line, missing a home run by just a couple of feet. It was Seager’s ninth RBI during the Mariners’ six-game homestand and his 10th two-out RBI over the past eight games.
Those two hits were the only ones allowed by Smyly in six innings. Smyly retired the first eight batters of the game, then seven of the final eight he faced with only his fourth-inning trouble sandwiched between. Smyly struck out five and walked only two, but needed 93 pitches to get through six innings, prompting manager Jim Leyland to turn to the bullpen.
Detroit’s run came in the sixth when Gerald Laird led off the with a double to deep left-center. Danny Worth attempted twice to get a bunt down and failed, only to slap a 1-2 pitch from Vargas into right for a single and put runners on the corners. Jackson followed with a fly ball to center deep enough for the lumbering Laird to score easily from third. Boesch had a broken-bat single to keep the rally going, but Miguel Cabrera’s one-hop smash was gloved by Seager at second and started an inning-ending double play.
The sixth was the only inning Vargas was knocked around. The Mariners lefty retired 12 of the first 13 batters, the only hit coming on Peralta’s single leading off the third. Vargas pitched into the eighth for the first time this season in his most efficient performance of the season.
NOTES: Detroit C Alex Avila’s sore patella tendon was feeling better on Wednesday and he’ll be re-examined before the Tigers open a four-game series Thursday in Oakland. ... Seattle 2B Dustin Ackley was given his second day off of the season on Wednesday. Ackley has struggled hitting just .238. ... Jaso became just the second Seattle catcher to bat leadoff and the first since 1978.