Mariners’ Vargas regrets HR pitch

SEATTLE — One pitch Wednesday night isn’t going to spoil the quality of the season that Jason Vargas has produced this year with the Seattle Mariners.

But it might be the one he can’t shake from his memory for a long time.

Hideki Matsui turned Vargas’ fastball in the seventh inning into a two-run home run that changed the game in the L.A. Angels’ 4-2 victory at Safeco Field.

Vargas had been careful but successful with Matsui, walking him in his first at-bat with two outs and nobody on base in the second inning and getting him to ground out leading off the fifth.

He had reason to pitch gingerly to Matsui in the seventh with the Mariners leading 2-1. Mike Napoli stood on second base after a double when Matsui came to bat with two outs, first base open and .165-hitting Brandon Wood on deck.

Vargas decided to pitch aggressively to Matsui.

“Lefties haven’t done a whole lot against Vargas this year,” Mariners manager Daren Brown said. “Matsui, look at the numbers, he’s right about .200 off lefties. The matchup is a good matchup. I would guess that he was going to try to be careful with him.”

Despite the lefty-on-lefty matchup, Matsui went into the game with two home runs and four RBI in eight career at-bats against Vargas, and he’d also hit six of his 17 home runs this season against lefties. The danger was there.

Vargas threw a first-pitch strike, then tried to throw an up-and-in fastball that has given Matsui trouble. Instead, he crushed it.

His high fly dropped just over the right-field wall for his 18th homer, turning the Mariners’ one-run edge into a 3-2 lead for the Angels.

“I feel like I’m smarter than that,” Vargas said. “We’ve got a guy we had success with on deck and Matsui has hit a couple of homers that have changed the game against us during the year. You can’t let him beat you there.”

Catcher Adam Moore had called for a slider to Matsui but Vargas shook him off. Then he called for a changeup, and Vargas shook again, preferring to throw the fastball.

“With Wood on deck, I should have gone out there and made a visit, but I didn’t,” Moore said. “It hurt us.”

Even so, both Vargas and Moore said the pitch was where they wanted it.

“The ball got into a spot that is his weak zone,” Moore said. “You watch video on it all day — hard in, hard up-and-in is his weak area. But he got enough of it.”

Center fielder Franklin Gutierrez starred as both a run producer and run-preventer for the Mariners.

His third-inning single scored Chone Figgins to tie the score 1-1 and his double-play grounder in the fifth allowed Josh Wilson to score, giving the Mariners a 2-1 lead. In that inning, though, the Mariners had three straight hits with nobody out before Gutierrez’s double play and Russell Branyan’s strikeout.

A half inning later, Gutierrez robbed Howie Kendrick of a possible home run when he leaped against the center field wall and made an outstretched backhand catch.

The loss spoiled a chance for Vargas to join Felix Hernandez as the Mariners’ only other 10-game winner. Instead, he’s 9-8 with a 3.55 earned run average.

Sean White pitched the eighth inning and gave up Alberto Callasapo’s two-out solo home run to make the score 4-2 before Brian Sweeney pitched a scoreless ninth.

The Mariners out-hit the Angels 10-5 but went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position. Russell Branyan struck out in all four at-bats, three times with runners on base and twice with a runner on second or third. He is 4-for-21 on this homestand with 10 strikeouts.

Ichiro Suzuki finished with two hits, leaving him 29 from 200 hits for the season with 29 games remaining. His infield single with one out in the seventh was the Mariners’ last hit of the game.

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