Vargas goes for Mariners in opener with Royals

Jason Vargas could be showcasing his talents this evening when the Seattle Mariners open a four-game set with the Kansas City Royals at Safeco Field.

Vargas' name has come up in trade discussions recently and rightfully so, as the left-hander has won his last three starts and has pitched to a 1.77 ERA in his last five appearances.

"I'm excited and I want to win more," Vargas said.

Vargas improved to 10-7 on Saturday against the Tampa Bay Rays, as he allowed an unearned run and seven hits in six innings to lower his ERA on the year to 3.91. He also did not give up a home run for the first time in 12 starts.

"I feel like my last three or four, I've kind of been getting back into a better rhythm," Vargas said. "Last time, I think I had to battle a little more, but I think being able to keep that team down to one run with the stuff that I had was a confidence booster."

While Vargas has pitched at least six innings in 18 of his 21 starts this season, he's also served up more home runs (25) than any pitcher in the league.

Vargas beat the Royals two starts ago and is 3-1 in four starts against them with a 4.32 ERA.

Seattle will be looking to get back on track after losing the rubber match of its three-game set against Ichiro Suzuki and the New York Yankees on Wednesday. The Mariners gave up four runs in the eighth inning of that one and fell, 5-2.

Michael Saunders and Jesus Montero accounted for two of Seattle's three hits.

"You're asking a lot out of your pitching staff to be able to hold those guys down for that many innings," remarked Seattle manager Eric Wedge. "We almost squeezed by, but ultimately you can't play it that tight against a veteran offensive club like that. Obviously, they really stepped up there in that eighth inning."

Kansas City also enters on a sour note, as it dropped two of three to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim after falling, 11-6, in Wednesday's finale at Angel Stadium.

Jeff Francoeur and Billy Butler homered for the Royals, who were trying to win back-to-back games for the first time since a four-game winning streak from June 25-29.

Luke Hochevar (6-9) allowed eight runs -- six earned -- on nine hits before being ejected in the fourth inning.

"We don't play sloppy very often but we did today," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "Luke didn't have his best stuff."

Getting the ball tonight for KC will be righty Luis Mendoza, who is 4-6 with a 4.31 ERA. Mendoza beat the Minnesota Twins on Saturday, limiting them to three runs and seven hits in 6 1/3 frames.

Mendoza has posted four straight quality starts and six in seven outings since re-entering the rotation last month.

"I just tried to get some groundballs, get below.," Mendoza said. "My job is to get groundballs. I just want to pitch my game, stay aggressive and try to win games."

He's 0-1 in four games (1 start) against the Mariners with a 9.00 ERA.

Seattle took three of four from the Royals last week.