But the Mariners didn't count on being shut down by Brad Bergesen over eight shutout innings and by the time the rookie right-hander was done with them, Seattle had a dubious start to a 10-game road trip.
The Mariners benefited from the home run overturned by instant replay, but struggled offensively, wasting a decent outing by Vargas in a 3-1 loss to the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday.
"Vargas battled tonight. ... First-pitch strikes, he struggled a little bit, 11 of 24. Fastball command inside wasn't as good," said Seattle manager Don Wakamatsu. "But again, the thing I like about him is, obviously, he goes out there and never gives in."
Vargas (2-1), who was beaten for the first time in six starts this season, gave up three runs on seven hits over 5 2/3 innings. He walked one and struck out four. He kept the Mariners close, just not close enough.
"I didn't really feel the greatest out there," he said. "I felt I could have done a lot more. I had a chance to take the team ... longer into the ballgame and I couldn't get it done with that last hitter. They had to make a change and I feel like it got away."
For the second time in as many outings, Vargas saw an apparent Orioles home run wiped away by replay. In his last start June 3 at Safeco Field, Aubrey Huff's first-inning blast down the right-field line was initially called a home run before umpires went to the replay and decided that it was a foul ball. It was the first replay at the Mariners' home park.
This time, with the Orioles leading 1-0 in the bottom of the first after Adam Jones' run-scoring fielder's choice, the Mariners caught a break when what was initially ruled by third-base umpire Fieldin Culbreth to be a two-run home run by Mora was turned into a fan-interference out after a review. It was the first instant replay to be conducted at Camden Yards.
Left fielder Endy Chavez leaped at the wall in left-center, but his ability to make the catch was impaired by a front-row fan who tried to use his hat to snag the ball, which ricocheted into the crowd as Mora trotted around the bases for what he thought was his third homer of the season.
After Wakamatsu protested, three members of the umpiring crew retreated to review the replay from various angles, all of which confirmed the interference. Emerging several minutes later, crew chief and home-plate umpire Gary Cederstrom ruled the play an inning-ending out, emphatically raising a closed right fist to signal the unusual third out.
"I was 100-percent sure that I could catch the ball," Chavez said. "[I was] very surprised, because I was supposed to have the ball in my glove and it wasn't. I just hit the guy's arm and I knew I can't catch the ball. I knew it was interference because I didn't even try to go over the fence. I was inside the fence."
As they did last week in Seattle, the umpires got the call right. Ironically, the guy who tried to snatch the ball away from Chavez was wearing a bright orange Mora T-shirt -- a giveaway that drew a crowd of 17,358 to the ballpark.
"[Chavez] went up for the ball and a fan put his hand inside of his glove and really took it away," Wakamatsu said. "When I went out to ask Fieldin, he said, 'I thought I saw something, but I wasn't sure. Let's check it out.' It was a ball he could have caught."
Chavez thought the call affected Mora, who finished the night 0-for-4. And the Mariners certainly didn't rally around their latest dose of good fortune.
"That happens. That's baseball," shrugged Chavez when asked about the opportunity lost.
There was less doubt about the Nolan Reimold blast that extended Baltimore's lead to 2-0 in the fifth. Center fielder Franklin Gutierrez climbed the wall in vain, unable to prevent Reimold's seventh homer from landing in the Orioles' bullpen. Vargas departed in the sixth after yielding singles to Huff and Luke Scott. Brandon Morrow relieved and surrendered a run-scoring single by Reimold.
Seattle hitters could generate little offense against Bergesen (3-2), who surrendered only five hits, walked none and struck out six in eight shutout innings. The Mariners' only run came in the ninth off closer George Sherrill, who notched his 12th save despite allowing Jose Lopez's RBI single after a one-out double by Adrian Beltre.
"First of all, [Bergesen] was throwing strikes. He had pretty good combinations," Chavez said. "He was throwing a lot of sliders in the beginning and then he went more for the sinkers. He was throwing the ball good all over the place. We've got to give some credit."
Since an 8-2 home win over Baltimore on June 2, Seattle has scored 11 runs in five games.
"We're working on that and we're going to continue working on that," Wakamatsu said. "Twelve guys out for early BP is going to pay off eventually."
Pete Kerzel is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less