Mariners 3, Angels 0

Take away his throwing error on the first batter of the game and

Seattle’s Jason Vargas was nearly flawless.

The Mariners left-hander is on a pretty impressive streak of

four straight starts were he’s been close to perfect.

”He was about as consistent start to finish as you could ask a

starting pitcher to be,” Seattle manager Eric Wedge said.

Vargas went seven innings and denied former college teammate

Jered Weaver another chance at becoming the first pitcher in the

majors to reach seven wins, and Seattle beat the Los Angeles Angels

3-0 on Wednesday night.

The first of 19 meetings this season between the AL West rivals

went the way of the Mariners, thanks to another gem from Vargas,

who ran his streak of scoreless innings to 16. Vargas (3-2) threw

nine shutout innings last week against Baltimore, then followed up

by holding the Angels to four singles in seven innings.

While most of the attention goes to the arms at the top of

Seattle’s pitching staff – Felix Hernandez and rookie Michael

Pineda mostly – Vargas has won three straight decisions and allowed

just one earned run in his last three times on the mound.

”It feels good. I’m just trying to build, just trying to stay

where I’m at and not really change anything,” Vargas said.

Jack Cust provided the offense with two RBI singles and Justin

Smoak added an RBI double for the Mariners.

Vargas’ sudden turn of success followed a streak of nine

straight losses dating to last season. He’s gotten better in each

of his last four starts. When Vargas broke his losing streak on

April 29 at Boston, he gave up four runs and eight hits. He

followed up with a win over Texas where Vargas allowed one run and

six hits.

Then came last week at Baltimore, when the lefty went nine

innings for just the second time in his career, even though he

didn’t get a decision in the Mariners’ extra-inning loss. He became

the fourth pitcher in Seattle history to throw nine shutout innings

and come away with a no-decision.

But Vargas didn’t let his shutout streak end.

He escaped a first-inning jam Wednesday by striking out Howie

Kendrick to end the threat with Erick Aybar on first. He again used

the strikeout to wiggle free in the second, getting Peter Bourjos

looking with Mark Trumbo at second. From there, Vargas didn’t allow

a runner past first, tying his career high with nine strikeouts,

including one of Bobby Abreu to end the seventh. He allowed two

walks and threw a season-high 115 pitches. In his last two starts,

Vargas has allowed 11 singles, walked three and struck out 13.

”He’s been very consistent with his delivery, with his release

point, with his arm slot and that all leads him in the right

direction,” Wedge said.

The Angels threatened in the eighth after Vargas left. Jamey

Wright allowed two walks and Alberto Callaspo’s infield single to

load the bases with two outs. He fell behind pinch-hitter Hank

Conger 2-0 then got him looking at a 3-2 pitch on the inside

corner.

Brandon League, who last week blew three save opportunities,

then pitched the ninth for his 10th save in 13 chances.

Weaver (6-4) sprinted to a 6-0 start to begin the season, then

hit a wall of losses that continued against Seattle, although the

Angels’ struggling offense didn’t help. Los Angeles has gone 21

innings without scoring.

Weaver wasn’t battered around by the Mariners, but it didn’t

matter on a night he needed to be perfect to match his former Long

Beach State teammate.

Chone Figgins doubled with one out in the first and scored when

Cust dumped a soft liner over the infield. In the third, Ichiro

Suzuki reached on an infield single that bounced off the plate and

scored on Smoak’s double into the right field corner. Remembering

that Weaver threw a 2-1 changeup in his previous at-bat, Cust

waited and jumped on a 2-1 change from Weaver and singled to center

to score Smoak.

”I’ve been feeling my swing come around, driving the ball a

little bit more,” Cust said. ”It’s a long season and the start

wasn’t what I was obviously hoping for. … I’ve been feeling more

comfortable lately and seeing the ball better.”

Weaver went six innings, giving up seven hits and struck out

four.

NOTES: The Angels were shut out in consecutive games for the

second time this season. Boston posted shutouts on April 23 and 24.

… Seattle CF Franklin Gutierrez made his season debut after

missing the first 41 games with stomach issues. Gutierrez went 0

for 4. … The Angels went 15-4 last season against Seattle.

Tim Booth can be reached at http://twitter.com/tjbooth7