DENVER — Jason Vargas did a pretty good imitation of Kevin Millwood.
Seattle’s savvy lefty threw seven strong innings, Kyle Seager homered and drove in three runs, and the Mariners beat the free-falling Colorado Rockies 10-3 on Saturday.
Vargas (5-3) said he picked up some tips watching and listening to Millwood, who threw a two-hitter at Coors Field on Friday night for his first shutout in nine years.
“You see him go out there and pound the zone with fastballs and making them commit early and you can go to your secondary pitches when you need it,” Vargas said. “… So, I was just going to go out and try to pound the zone like Millwood did last night.”
Before the Mariners got to Denver for this interleague series, Vargas also sought advice from injured catcher Miguel Olivo, who played in Colorado in 2010 and gave him similar words of wisdom.
“I don’t have a put-away breaking ball, so for me to try to go to that offspeed stuff here is going to be a little bit more different than in other parks,” said Vargas, who had been 0-2 with an 18.00 ERA at Denver’s downtown ballpark.
This time, he allowed three runs on five hits over seven innings in sending the Rockies to their 12th loss in 15 games.
“I think he obviously caught us at a good time,” said Michael Cuddyer, who is mired in an 0-for-13 slump. “He’s a good pitcher, don’t get me wrong, but we’re not swinging the bats very well.”
Indeed, the Rockies are 7 for 59 for an abysmal batting average of .119 in the first two games of this three-game series.
Vargas took a two-hitter into the seventh, when he allowed three runs, two on Wilin Rosario’s sixth homer.
“It’s one of those things where you got to just come in here and forget about where you’re at, just go and pound the strike zone,” Vargas said. “Don’t let them wait for you to make mistakes.”
That’s what Rockies rookie left-hander Christian Friedrich tried to do, too. But he wasn’t nearly as precise with his low fastball, so he couldn’t go to his above-average breaking pitches as often as he wanted.
Marco Scutaro, who ended Millwood’s no-hitter in the sixth inning Friday night, dropped a single just out of Casper Wells’ reach in left field with two outs in the third for Colorado’s first hit off Vargas, who extended Seattle’s string of shutout innings against the Rockies to 15 before Jordan Pacheco’s RBI single in the seventh.
And on a cold and damp day where the vendors’ shouts of “Hot chocolate here!” drowned out the usual “Ice cold beer” screams, Friedrich (1-1) fizzled in his first start at Coors Field.
After allowing just two earned runs over 13 innings in his two starts on the Rockies’ recent West Coast swing, Friedrich was tagged for eight earned runs on nine hits and four walks in five-plus innings.
“Just not establishing the fastball down, that’s the biggest part of my game, it allows me to use all my other pitches,” said Friedrich, whose ERA jumped from 1.38 to 5.00.
This being Friedrich’s third major league start, the Mariners had little data on the lefty.
“He has a pretty good fastball. He has some sharp breaking pitches,” Seattle manager Eric Wedge said. “We wanted to make sure, in particular with the breaking balls, if he was out of the zone, that we were able to lay off it, make him come in. We wanted to make him throw the ball over the plate.”
Friedrich left trailing 5-0 with the bases full and nobody out in the sixth. Esmil Rogers came in and promptly surrendered a two-run double to Dustin Ackley and a two-run single to Wells.
Friedrich walked two batters in the second inning — matching his total from his first two starts — one of them just before Seager sent a 91 mph fastball into the right-field bullpen that put the Mariners up 2-0.
The Mariners pushed across two more runs in the third when Wells walked, Ichiro Suzuki reached on an infield single, Jesus Montero sent a hard groundball up the middle for an RBI single and Seager hit a groundball to right field for another run-scoring single, all with two outs.
Vargas helped himself out in the fourth when his single scored Brendan Ryan, who had tripled, making it 5-0.
Shawn Kelly pitched a perfect eighth for Seattle and Steve Delabar finished it in the ninth.
Notes: Olivo (strained right groin) will catch five innings for Triple-A Tacoma at Iowa on Monday and serve as Tacoma’s DH on Tuesday. Mariners manager Eric Wedge said Olivo will need to catch at least once more and just when depends on what happens Monday and Tuesday. … The series wraps up Sunday with Colorado RHP Jeremy Guthrie (2-1) facing RHP Blake Beavan (1-4). … Rosario leads NL rookies with six homers and a .569 slugging percentage.