Mariners slow streaking Twins
SEATTLE (AP) -- Forget about slowing down the rolling Twins or stopping his own team's skid. For a scary moment, his breakout season didn't matter so much, either.
Jason Vargas' best -- and most important -- move in the Seattle Mariners' 7-1 victory over Minnesota on Tuesday was one you will never find by looking at a box score or studying sabermetrics.
Vargas saved himself a potentially awful head injury by getting his glove up just in time to snare a wicked liner back at him by Joe Mauer. The ball was hit so hard, Vargas' eyes were huge as he looked at the webbing at his black glove after the out. It was as if he was ensuring that part was still intact.
"I just glad I got it. I don't know if I've hard one hit that hard," Seattle's surprising left-hander said, adding he was scared and only saw the scary drive for a split-second.
Jose Lopez homered and drove in three runs and Chone Figgins had two hits including an RBI double as Seattle ended a three-game losing streak.
Minnesota's Nick Blackburn was aiming for his career-high sixth consecutive win, after a 5-0 May with a 2.65 ERA. But he was gone after a season-low 3 2-3 innings, having allowed 10 hits and five earned runs. The Twins' winning streak ended at a season high-tying five games.
Blackburn (6-2) said his sinker wasn't sinking during Seattle's decisive four-run fourth, in which Lopez hit his two-run homer -- his third home run in five days -- and Figgins had his RBI double.
That left the right-hander sunk.
"Tonight, everything was flat but still around the strike zone so I was getting hit pretty good," he said.
Vargas (4-2) not getting hit was the story of his night.
After his escape with his wits and face intact, allowing Justin Morneau's solo home run on a gift 3-0 pitch and just five other hits in seven innings didn't seem so difficult. He ended a string of three consecutive no-decisions.
"Vargas, unbelievable for me," Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said.
He could have been talking about this: the 27-year-old was competing for a roster spot in spring training. Now he is a surprise of Seattle's skittish season.
Finally healthy after a couple years trying to get over hip surgery that cost him all of 2008, the former project with the Marlins and Mets has a 2.92 ERA -- among the top 10 in the American League.
Asked what he would have said had someone proposed this back in March, Vargas said dryly: "I guess I wouldn't have argued."
Figgins has been so large a disappointment as Seattle's new No. 2 hitter behind Ichiro Suzuki, people have been demanding he be demoted to ninth. But he has eight hits in his last five games to raise his average from .194 to .217.
His double was his first RBI in nine games. He also walked and stole his 11th base of the season in the seventh.
It was the kind of night the Mariners envisioned would be Figgins' norm this winter when they signed him to a $36 million, four-year contract.
"He's done it for a number of years," Wakamatsu said of the Angels' former leadoff man. "Everybody wants to talk about moving him down in the lineup, but he has a track record. ... It's just a matter of when."
Suzuki had three hits and an RBI.
Asked if Figgins is now providing what Seattle brought him here to do while paired with the nine-time All-Star atop the order, Suzuki said, "If that's what you've been seeing, that's what it must be."
NOTES: Figgins' double off the right-field wall with his 11th hit in 19 at-bats (.579) against Blackburn. ... Twins 2B Orlando Hudson rejoined the team Tuesday, two days after his entire left arm went numb following a collision with teammate Denard Span. A CT scan on the four-time Gold Glover showed there was no structural damage. The two-time All-Star had his left wrist reconstructed in surgery two years ago. Hudson got electric stimulation therapy, then was smiling and wearing a bionic-looking chip inside a bandage over the wrist. "I'm not going to say it's a lot better, but it's better," he said. The Twins say Hudson could be back playing before the weekend. ... Manager Ron Gardenhire says closer Jon Rauch, the fill-in for injured Joe Nathan, has had "tightness" in his hamstring and iliotibial band of his leg but that it hasn't bothered him while he's pitched.