Vargas continues M's strong pitching, beats O's

SEATTLE (AP) — Jason Vargas extended a stretch of strong starting pitching by the Mariners in Seattle's 3-1 victory over the struggling Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday night.

One night after Doug Fister carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning for a win, Vargas (2-1) allowed just three hits in seven innings against the anemic Orioles.

Baltimore is 2-13, with just two runs and nine hits combined in two games here.

David Hernandez lost his ninth consecutive decision. He allowed three runs on seven hits in 6 1-3 innings and left after consecutive doubles by Adam Moore and Jack Wilson, Seattle's No. 8 and 9 hitters, made it 3-1.

Mark Lowe pitched a scoreless eighth and David Aardsma finished for his sixth save in six chances as Seattle won for the sixth time in seven games.

Vargas is competing with Fister and Ian Snell to keep the final two rotation spots before Cliff Lee returns from a strained abdomen to make his Seattle debut, likely at the end of next week.

The 27-year-old former high school quarterback who quit baseball power LSU after just one season and then became a power hitter at Long Beach State relied on precisely locating pitches and allowing the Orioles to get themselves out, as is their norm right now. Vargas didn't throw a pitch faster than 88 mph.

Not that many noticed. One night after the Mariners had a crowd of 14,528, the smallest in Safeco Field's 10½-year history, 15,931 were covered by the retractable roof on a cool, damp night. It was the third-smallest turnout at the stadium, and three of Safeco Field's lowest crowd counts have been on this opening homestand.

Hours after Baltimore demoted Brad Bergesen, its 2009 rookie star starter, to Triple-A, Hernandez (0-3) lost again. He hasn't won since Aug. 11. The Orioles have lost 12 consecutive games started by the 24-year-old right-hander.

Hernandez immediately gave back the 1-0 lead Nick Markakis had given him with an RBI double in the top of the first. Hernandez allowed a single to Ichiro Suzuki and a walk to Chone Figgins to begin his night. Then Hernandez advanced each with a wild pitch on a breaking ball that appeared to skip off the lip of infield grass about 8 feet in front of home plate.

Franklin Gutierrez, playing with tightness in both groin muscles, drove in Suzuki with a sacrifice fly that tied the game. Milton Bradley singled home Jose Lopez with the go-ahead run by slicing an 0-2 pitch into left field.

Bradley fist-bumped first-base coach Lee Tinsley after his eighth RBI in eight games and appeared fine, yet left the game with tightness in his left calf minutes later. Eric Byrnes replaced him in left field.

The often news-making Bradley is due in Chicago this weekend for the first time since the Cubs traded him this winter following one failed season. The Mariners and White Sox begin a three-game series Friday.

After starting the season 1 for 21, Bradley is 6 for 21 (.286) in his last eight games.

NOTES: Seattle might get Lee back on April 30. The team is considering that debut date after Major League Baseball dropped the 2008 AL Cy Young Award winner's five-game suspension for throwing over the head of Arizona's Chris Snyder in an exhibition game, and after Lee breezed through a 70-pitch simulated game. Lee has an 85-pitch minor league rehabilitation start scheduled for Sunday at Triple-A Tacoma. ... Orioles 3B Miguel Tejada (strained groin) wanted to start but manager Dave Trembley wanted him to only take batting practice instead on a cool night. Tejada could return Wednesday.