ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Jason Vargas came up big again after a Seattle loss.
Vargas took a shutout into the seventh inning, Michael Saunders had two RBIs, and the Mariners beat the Tampa Bay Rays 2-1 on Saturday night.
Vargas (10-7) gave up one run and seven hits in six-plus innings as the Mariners stopped a nine-game losing streak against the Rays.
“It starts with Jason Vargas,” Seattle manager Eric Wedge said. “Didn’t quite have the command he normally does, but he didn’t give into it, either.”
Vargas improved to 9-2 in 13 starts this season after a Mariners’ defeat.
“I was able to make pitches when I needed to,” Vargas said.
Vargas struck out five and walked three.
Seattle loaded the bases with two outs in the first and took a 2-0 lead on Saunders’ line single to left off Alex Cobb (4-7), who left after bruising his right lower leg in the second.
“In a tight ballgame like that, those are tough wins to have up here at the big leagues, when you score two runs in the first inning and that’s enough for you to win,” Wedge said. “We’ve had our struggles here. It’s a good win.”
Tom Wilhelmsen, the fourth Seattle reliever, pitched the ninth for his ninth save.
Desmond Jennings singled against Vargas leading off the seventh and scored to cut deficit to 2-1 when right fielder Ichiro Suzuki made a bad throw to third attempting to record an out on Jose Labaton’s single.
Suzuki’s error was Seattle’s first in 13 games. The 12-game errorless stretch was a team record.
Cobb made a nifty play after taking Suzuki’s second-inning grounder off his leg. The right-hander chased down the ball after it went toward the plate and flipped it to Labaton, who tagged out Carlos Peguero as he tried to score from third.
Cobb went down to the ground after the inning-ending play and needed assistance to leave the field. He allowed two runs, three hits and two walks in two innings.
Cobb expects to make his next start.
“Right in between the fibula and the tibia,” Cobb said. “Fortunately it got all muscle, no bone, so there’s no fracture.”
Cesar Ramos, recalled from Triple-A Durham after Tampa Bay placed designated hitter Luke Scott on the 15-day disabled list with a right oblique injury, replaced Cobb and gave up two hits and struck out six over four scoreless innings.
Four Tampa Bay relievers combined for seven shutout innings.
“That’s been our biggest problem this year, the inability to win some close ones based on being able to score the runs we needed to,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
Ramos was optioned back to Durham after the game. A corresponding move will be announced Sunday.
Notes: Seattle OF Franklin Gutierrez (concussion) has experienced headaches and has been shut down from working out until being evaluated on Monday. … Tampa Bay RHP Jeff Niemann threw 25 pitches, pushing off at 50 to 75 percent, in his first bullpen session since breaking his right fibula in mid-May. … Mariners RHP Erasmo Ramirez (right elbow flexor) threw a simulated game and is scheduled to start a minor league rehab assignment on Wednesday. … Rays 3B Evan Longoria, out since May 1 with a partially torn left hamstring, lightly ran the bases and fielded grounders. … Tampa Bay INF Ben Zobrist’s game-winning hit in the 14th inning Friday night was changed from a double to a triple.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.