BALTIMORE — Jason Vargas went the distance, kept the Baltimore Orioles scoreless after the second inning and didn’t issue a walk.
Unfortunately, Chris Tillman was even better.
Tillman took a three-hit shutout into the eighth, and the Orioles beat Vargas and the Seattle Mariners 3-1 on Monday night.
Vargas (12-8) allowed three runs — all in the second inning. Seeking to become the first Seattle pitcher in nine years to win six consecutive starts, Vargas yielded eight hits and struck out two before walking off the mound after eight sparkling innings.
Although the result wasn’t what Vargas or manager Eric Wedge wanted, the complete game was a testament to the endurance and effectiveness of Seattle’s gritty left-hander.
“It says a great deal about him and how far he’s come,” Wedge said. “He had earned the right to stay out there. I wanted him to be out there. I trust him. He makes pitches and keeps the game right where it is. He gave us every chance to win the ball game and I wanted to give him every chance to win the ball game.”
Said Vargas: “I think that’s the first time (Wedge) has come out there and not taken me out. The trust that he has in me to finish the inning off was huge.”
Nick Markakis homered and Mark Reynolds had three hits and an RBI for the Orioles, who have won six of eight to improve to 58-51. Baltimore didn’t record its 58th win last year until Sept. 9, one day after its 85th defeat.
Tillman (5-1) gave up one run, five hits and a walk in 7 1-3 innings to win his fourth straight start and lower his ERA to 2.38. In two outings against Seattle this year, the right-hander has allowed one earned run in 15 2-3 innings.
Tillman is 3-0 lifetime against the Mariners, who traded him to Baltimore in 2008. Asked if pitching against Seattle provides him with added motivation, Tillman said, “No, not anymore. I kind of got over that after that ‘08 season when I came over here. Just another team to go out there and give my team a chance to win.”
The Mariners scored in the eighth to end a streak of 28 scoreless innings by Baltimore pitchers. Over the past four games, Orioles starters have given up two runs over 27 innings.
Pedro Strop got two outs in the eighth and Jim Johnson worked the ninth for his 33rd save in 36 tries.
Munenori Kawasaki drove in the lone run for the last-place Mariners, who have lost three of four following a seven-game winning streak.
Since being recalled from Triple-A Norfolk on July 4, Tillman had given up 13 first-inning runs in five starts. He broke the pattern in this one, putting the Mariners down in order on 12 pitches.
After stranding runners at second and third in their half of the first, the Orioles went up 3-0 in the second. Lew Ford singled and scored on a double by Reynolds before Markakis drove a 1-2 pitch over the scoreboard in right field, the first homer allowed by Vargas in four starts since July 16.
“That pitch to Reynolds I kind of left over the plate and that allowed them to extend the inning,” Vargas said. “Markakis hit a curveball that I kind of hung over the plate a little bit.”
Tillman held the Mariners hitless until the fifth, when Mike Carp hit a sharp grounder where shortstop J.J. Hardy would have been positioned had the Orioles not been in a shift to provide extra coverage to the right side of the infield.
In the Seattle sixth, Kawasaki reached on a bunt and advanced to third with one out but was stranded.
The Mariners finally broke through in the eighth. Eric Thames hit a leadoff double and scored on a single by Kawasaki, who was tagged out at second on the play after the throw to the plate was cut off.
NOTES: The eighth-inning run prevented Baltimore from recording a third straight shutout. The Orioles haven’t had more than two consecutive shutouts since notching five straight in September 1995. … Seattle RHP Blake Beavan seeks to win a fifth straight start Wednesday night. Zach Britton will pitch for Baltimore. … Orioles DH Jim Thome will be out until well into September with a herniated disk. The 41-year-old slugger was told last Thursday to rest for 30 days. … The last Seattle pitcher to win six straight starts was Joel Pineiro in 2003.