Snapping out of a two-game funk, Jason Vargas pitched seven strong innings and the Mariners (66-70) erupted for four runs in the fourth inning to beat the Red Sox Monday at Safeco Field, 4-1. Vargas, routed by the Minnesota Twins 10-0 in his previous outing, won his 14th game, a career high, as Seattle won for the 17th time in 20 games at Safeco Field.
Vargas, also winning a team-high 14th (Felix Hernandez 13), went 7.0 innings and allowed one earned run on six hits. He struck out five and walked one before giving way to Josh Kinney to start the eighth. Vargas is the first Seattle pitcher other than other Hernandez to win 14 in a season since 2003 when Jamie Moyer won 21, Joel Pineiro 16 and Gil Meche 15.
The Mariners, now with 21 come-from-behind wins, have won 10 of their last 12 at Safeco Field and 13 of 19 overall. In handing Boston its seventh consecutive defeat, the Mariners won for just the third time in seven games against the Red Sox this season.
Seattle had only six hits, but bunched them effectively in the fourth. Aided by two errors, the Mariners rallied from a 1-0 deficit to take a 4-1 lead. Vargas and the bullpen did the rest.
Closer Tom Wilhelmsen, shaky in recent outings, had one runner get aboard in the ninth when Dustin Ackley booted a grounder, but suffered no damage and collected his 23rd save.
The Red Sox got to Vargas with two outs in the first when Dustin Pedroia doubled to center and Coby Ross singled to right. But the Mariners stormed back with four runs in the fourth when they sent eight men to the plate.
Franklin Gutierrez led off with an infield single to short. After starter Clay Buchholz hit Kyle Seager with a pitch, John Jaso singled, scoring Gutierrez and sending Seager to third. Justin Smoak followed with a single, advancing Jaso to third. He scored on an error by center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury. Smoak now has a four-game hitting streak.
Another error, charged to shortstop Jose Iglesias, enabled Smoak to score for a 4-1 lead. The Mariners could have had a huge inning but Brendan Ryan hit into a double play.
The Mariners had another scoring opportunity in the eighth with runners on first and second with no outs. Smoak banged into a double play. The Mariners got two more aboard on walks before Miguel Olivo grounded out to end the inning.
The three-game series resumes Tuesday at 7:10 p.m. with RHP Blake Beavan (9-8, 4.95) contesting LHP and Tacoma native Jon Lester (8-11, 5.01). Wednesday, RHP Kevin Millwood (4-12, 4.38) will oppose RHP Aaron Cook (3-8, 5.35).
NOTES: Mariners are 30-19 since the All-Star break, tied with Baltimore for the second-best record in the majors behind Oakland . . . The Mariners are 15-18 all-time on Labor Day. They have won eight of the last 14 Labor Day games dating to 1997. Seattle is 1-3 vs. Boston in Labor Day games after Monday’s win . . . Mariners have won 12 of their last 16 day games . . . Mariners are 15-23 against the AL East . . . OF Franklin Gutierrez has at least one hit in five of seven games since his return from the disabled list . . . OF Michael Saunders was out of the lineup for the ninth time in 10 games Monday as he works to rehab a groin strain suffered in an outfield collision with Eric Thames. “He’s getting a little better every day, so we’ll see how he feels after he has some more activity,” manager Eric Wedge said. “I just want to work it to the point where when we get him in there next time, we can keep him there.” Jesus Montero and Kyle Seager are tied for the club lead with 15 homers. If Montero finishes with more homers than Seager, he would become the first rookie to lead the club since Alvin Davis in 1984 . . . Shawn Kelley and Mike Carp are expected to be among the players called up from AAA Tacoma Tuesday, when the Rainiers season ends . . . Wednesday’s game, originally scheduled for 12:40 p.m., has been moved to 7:10 p.m.