Jason Vargas continues to pitch well at Safeco Field, only now it’s against the Seattle Mariners rather than for them. Vargas held Seattle (18-17) scoreless over seven innings, allowing just three hits and a hit batter as the Kansas City Royals defeated the Mariners 6-1 in front of 20,858 Friday night.
Vargas (3-1, 3.04 ERA) was coming off of his worst outing of the season, hammered by Detroit on Sunday. Vargas gave up seven runs on 11 hits in five innings. Yet, in his fourth outing against the Mariners since being traded prior to the 2013 season for Kendrys Morales, Vargas continued control his old team — he’s 2-1 with a 2.11 ERA in 21.1 innings.
The Mariners managed five hits one night after coming up with two. Over their past three games, the M’s have 10 hits.
Little offense and sub-par defense left Brandon Maurer (1-1, 6.20 ERA), making his fourth start of the season since being recalled April 20, in a bad position. It was another up and down start from Maurer, who got a lot of ground balls that found holes as he gave up 14 hits, every one of them singles, that produced six runs (four earned) in 7.1 innings.
“I was pleased with his outing,” manager Lloyd McClendon. “You never feel good about giving up runs and not keeping your team in it . . . But I really liked the way he threw.”
The light-hitting Royals (17-18) who entered tied for the lowest slugging percentage in the AL (with Seattle), finished with 16 hits, not one for extra bases.
The Royals touched up Maurer up for seven hits and four runs in the first four innings to take a 4-0 lead.
In the first, Billy Butler delivered an RBI groundout. In the third, Eric Hosmer hit a sacrifice fly. In the fourth, Maurer was the victim of a poor play on the part of shortstop Brad Miller.
With runners on first and second with no outs, Miller fielded a routine ground ball but threw errantly to Cano at second as he attempted to turn two. Instead, no outs were recorded and Salvador Perez scored. The Royals tacked on a second unearned run as Alex Gordon scored on Lorenzo Cain’s groundout.
Meanwhile the Mariners offense struggled to even deliver a hit against their former teammate. Through four innings, a Mike Zunino ground ball that barely eluded Escobar at shortstop was all they managed.
Kansas City was led by Hosmer’s 3-for-4 with an RBI. Perez also went 3-for-4 and scored twice.
“It was not a good night all the way around for us,” McClendon said. “We know from time to time we are going to be challenged offensively, we know that going in. The guys will continue to work hard, we’ll get better. The offense will have their day.”
The Mariners scored their lone run in the eighth. Miller walked and James Jones delivered a pinch-hit double that eventually plated Miller as rightfielder Nori Aoki’s throw sailed over the cutoff man’s head. Jones is hitting .455 (5-for-11) in his limited time this season.
A helpful development as the team awaits the return of James Paxton to the rotation (as well as Taijuan Walker) was seeing Maurer pitch into the eighth.
“That was big for us. He saved the bullpen,” McClendon said. “From that standpoint, it was a very good positive for him.”
James Paxton threw a 25-pitch bullpen Friday and McClendon said everything went well. Paxton will throw two or three more bullpens beginning Sunday, then one or two simulated games. Paxton will be on a similar throwing program as the one Hisashi Iwakuma completed. Iwakuma began throwing a baseball in late March and took about five weeks to return. Paxton is looking at a late May return . . . Third baseman Kyle Seager was scratched from Friday’s lineup with the flu. It was his first missed start since April 20 and just his third of the season . . . Right-handed relief pitcher Stephen Pryor has been pitching in AAA Tacoma for the last month as he continues to work his way back into form after having surgery to repair a torn lat muscle late last summer. “He’s getting better,” McClendon said. “He needs to pitch well to get back to where he was. I mean there’s no guarantee that he’s going to be here. You say he’s healthy, doesn’t mean he’s going to be here in the big leagues.” . . . Reliever Tom Wilhelmsen worked a scoreless ninth inning to stretch his scoreless-inning streak to 10, longest for any M’s reliever this season.