SEATTLE -- The quick reaction Mariners left-hander Jason Vargas had in the fifth inning on Tuesday night might have prevented some serious damage.
With hardly any time to react, Vargas somehow snagged a line drive hit right back at him by Twins All-Star catcher Joe Mauer, turning the hot shot into an out -- and eliciting thankful sighs at Safeco Field.
Asked after the Mariners' 7-1 victory if he saw the ball, Vargas said, "Yeah I saw it. I caught it. It was the only way I saved myself."
Was he scared?
"For a second," he said. "I was glad I got my glove up. I have had balls that close, but I don't know if I ever had one that hard."
The close-call brought back some memories.
"I had a flashback to 1997," Mariners pitching coach Rick Adair said. "Willie Blair took one off the forehead on a ball hit by Julio Franco. It happened on May 1 and I'll never forget it."
Adair said the ball Franco drilled was almost identical to the one that Mauer laced on Tuesday, a ball that was "probably going well over 100 mph right at his face."
The result, thankfully, was much different this time.
"The ball Franco hit got Willie in the temple and he went down," Adair recalled. "When we got out there, his body started going into convulsions. He missed the entire month of May, but recovered and still won 15 or 16 games for us that year."