"Vargas set the tone, but the pitching staff overall did a great job, giving up four hits against that offense," manager Don Wakamatsu said. "It was a tremendous day pitching-wise."
Vargas, Jamey Wright, Brandon League and David Aardsma combined on the four-hitter, pitching around five walks, including four that led off innings. That usually is a recipe for trouble.
Although two of the three leadoff free passes Vargas allowed eventually scored, the Mariners produced just enough offense to win the series opener.
Gutierrez's 10th home run of the season, coming with one out in the fifth, snapped a 2-all tie. Seattle (40-67) won its ninth game against an American League West team this season. It was his first blast since June 22.
It seemed about that long since the Mariners last scored a run.
They entered the game on a 21-inning scoreless streak, gaining fast on the season-high 27-inning famine earlier in the season.
After the latest streak reached 23 innings, the Mariners loaded the bases with nobody out in the third when Ichiro Suzuki, Chone Figgins and Casey Kotchman delivered consecutive singles.
But designated hitter Russell Branyan struck out, no doubt creating another "here-we-go-again" feeling throughout Safeco Field. But Gutierrez fooled everyone with a safety squeeze bunt, which scored Ichiro.
"I saw the third baseman and first baseman playing back so I had an RBI chance right there," Gutierrez said. "And the way we have been having a tough time scoring runs, you have to find a way to get it done."
Gutierrez said he had a bunt on his mind when he walked to the plate and got the go-ahead sign if he wanted to try it. Rangers right-hander Colby Lewis obliged by throwing a slider that was ideal for putting the ball on the ground.
"I wanted to bunt it more towards the first baseman," Gutierrez said, "but it worked."
That tied the game for the first time and each team scored in the fourth.
Bunting was the last thing of Gutierrez's mind in the fifth when he came to bat with one out.
"The count was 2-2, and I just wanted to make contact," Gutierrez said. "It was a fastball that was up. I didn't know it was going to go out."
Vargas' win came three days after the birth of his daughter, Elizabeth.
"She's healthy, she's fine," Vargas said. "She was at the game tonight. She's 1-0."
Her dad is 7-5 with 16 quality starts.
"He threw well," Rangers third baseman Michael Young said. "He's got a good changeup, he changes speeds and he locates the ball well. You have to give credit where credit is due, but as an offense our job is to score runs. Even if the other guy is pitching well, we've got to find a way to score runs."
Vargas made key pitches when he had to, which he needed to because of the leadoff walks.
"He battled out of a couple of jams," Wakamatsu said. "But to go six innings and [throw] 92 efficient pitches, it was a tremendous [game] for him."
And thanks to the swift double play that ended the eighth inning, stranding the tying run at third base, Vargas received the win he deserved.
League walked the first two batters he faced in the inning, induced a would-be double play by Josh Hamilton that he barely beat. Nelson Cruz followed with a blistering one-hopper that Figgins gloved and turned into a 4-6-3 double play.
Wakamatsu called it the play of the game.
"When a ball is hit that hard, you don't have time to think," Figgins said. "You just react."
One of the most unusual doubles of the season came in the second inning. Matt Tuiasosopo hit a drive over Hamilton's head in left. The ball took one bounce and hit the, getting stuck in one of the cracks on the padding.
Hamilton, expecting a carom, had to go to the fence and dislodge the ball.
Seattle finished with 11 hits, including three singles by Figgins, his 23rd multihit game of the season, and two hits by Tuiasosopo, the double to left in the second and single in the eighth. Ichiro also had two hits, as did Kotchman.
"We played a real good game tonight," Gutierrez said.
And that's something that hasn't been said in a week or so.