Mariners 2, Tigers 1

All it took was two clutch at-bats for John Jaso to get a new

title in the Seattle clubhouse.

”Best clutch hitter ever!” Miguel Olivo shouted toward Jaso

from just a few feet away.

For the second time in three games, Jaso came through in the

late innings for the Mariners. Jaso lined a single over Detroit’s

drawn-in infield in the eighth inning Wednesday night to drive in

Michael Saunders with the tiebreaking run, Jason Vargas pitched

eight strong innings and the Mariners beat the Tigers 2-1.

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.

The late run capped a brief, but successful homestand for the

Mariners, who took four of six from Minnesota and Detroit, and

twice picked up wins thanks to Jaso’s bat. Jaso had the

game-winning RBI in Monday’s series opener against the Tigers when

Seattle rallied for three runs in the ninth inning, capped by

Jaso’s sacrifice fly that scored Munenori Kawasaki with the winning

run.

”I don’t think I thrive. I don’t think I get more energy from

it. It’s just the way I am I guess,” Jaso said of the late-inning

heroics. ”I’ve been in a couple of championship situations … and

I just treat it like every other game. I’ve taught myself to do it

and I try not to get too high or too low and stay as level as

possible.”

Jaso’s single was the needed capper to back what Vargas did on

the mound. 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.

Earlier in the game, Ryan had made a barehanded grab and throw

to get Jackson and stole a base hit from Prince Fielder leading off

the seventh.

”Brendan Ryan had an unbelievable game,” Wedge said. ”We talk

about it time and time again, that’s why we’re really working to

try and get his bat going because he is so valuable to us.

While Jaso will get the accolades, Saunders’ at-bat was just as

important. 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.

Below got the count to 2-2 on Jaso before his hit. Jaso got

greedy and was thrown out trying to advance to second on the

hit.

”He threw a slider down and away, but it happened to stay up in

the zone,” Detroit catcher Gerald Laird said. ”He’s a big league

hitter and he took a good swing.”

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 stole second and 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.

The sixth was the only inning Vargas was knocked around when

Laird led off with a double and scored on Jackson’s sacrifice fly

to deep center. That inning was highlighted by another defensive

gem when Seager gloved Cabrera’s one-hop smash and started an

inning-ending double play.

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. Vargas said he would have liked to go back

out for the ninth at only 90 pitches, but understood the decision

to go to League.

”I was ready to go out there and finish it,” Vargas said.

”You always want to throw a complete game when you can but Brandon

has done pretty good over here so I think we’ll let him close it

down in the ninth.”

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.