ANAHEIM, Calif. — Jason Vargas and company managed something that the Mariners have not done to a contending team in some time.
The Los Angeles Angels were so furious about the way the Mariners manhandled them the final two games of this series that they held a lengthy, closed-door team meeting immediately after Sunday’s finale. Usually, it’s the Mariners meeting in private after a thumping, but this 4-1 win over Jered Weaver and the Angels was convincing enough to get the other side talking among themselves.
If nothing else, Vargas demonstrated on this trip that he can take on power hitters in opposing parks and warmer weather without getting beaten by the long ball. In fact, this August road version of Vargas — who halted a three-month winning streak by Weaver — will likely go a long way toward convincing the Mariners to offer him a multiyear deal this winter.
“I think it’s just being in the strike zone earlier and not letting them get into multiple counts where they can put big swings on the ball,” Vargas said. “So, for me, it’s just getting ahead of them early.”
Vargas (13-8) had allowed 20 home runs by the time he exited a June 20 game at Arizona. Now, after dominating for 8-1/3 innings in front of 36,505 fans at Angel Stadium, he has given up just six more long balls since and only one in his last five outings.
He retired 13 in a row after a leadoff double by Erick Aybar in the fourth. Then, after a one-out single by Torii Hunter in a 3-1 game in the eighth, Vargas got Albert Pujols to ground into a nifty 4-6-3 double play started by a backhand flip by Kyle Seager.
Seager had just moved to second base and Dustin Ackley to first base a couple of innings earlier, following a hip injury to Mike Carp.
“That double play really got me fired up,” Vargas said.
And it punctuated the way the Mariners ended their trip here by playing good, clean baseball to take the series in surprising fashion. They managed only four hits in seven innings off Weaver, who entered the day with Cy Young Award credentials that included a 15-1 record and 2.13 earned-run average.
But two of the hits were home runs by Jesus Montero, including the go-ahead, two-run blast to left field on a change-up in the sixth. Montero has three home runs off Weaver in six at-bats dating to last year.
“I just try to react to the ball,” Montero said. “I try to be quick and put a good swing on the ball. He’s not throwing as hard as last year, but he’s trying to take the middle all the time. He’s got good stuff. A slider, changeup and all that.
“On the second home run, I found the changeup over the middle, hanging and I got the home run.”
Montero nearly had his first home run stolen at the center-field wall by rookie Mike Trout in the second inning. A leaping Trout had robbed Miguel Olivo in nearly the same spot Saturday night.
“I was scared,” Montero said. “I was like, ‘Hey, don’t do that to me!’ “
Vargas took care of the rest. He used his change-up for early strikes against the fastball-sitting Angels, then got them to chase it lower down in the zone as the game wore on.
Chone Figgins entered as a pinch-hitter for Carp in the sixth and delivered a key run-scoring triple in the ninth to increase Seattle’s lead. Vargas had a chance to finish the game, but was pulled after a one-out triple in the ninth by Howie Kendrick.
Tom Wilhelmsen came on and got two outs with no further damage.
Mariners manager Eric Wedge agreed that the final two victories over an increasingly frustrated contender took some of the sting off a 3-6 trip that appeared headed for disaster after Felix Hernandez blew a 5-0 lead and the Mariners lost the series opener to Los Angeles.
But they played two of their better back-to-back games in months on Saturday and Sunday.
“It was a great couple of wins,” Wedge said. “It was a tough road trip, a weird road trip. We had different types of games, different types of losses.”
Weaver wasn’t exactly hammered in suffering his first loss since May 13.
But unlike his previous three starts against Seattle, in which he went nine innings each time, the Mariners ran his pitch count up enough to get him out after seven.
“We made him work, that was the key,” Wedge said. “We didn’t do much with regard to hits — except for Jesus — but we did make him work.”
And afterward, they made the Angels meet.