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PHI@SEA: Smoak singles to plate Ichiro for the lead

SEATTLE -- The starting pitcher was nearly flawless, throwing a three-hitter. The offense actually produced enough runs to win. The sellout crowd of 45,462 was electric after watching their team take two of three from baseball's best squad.

These are the 2011 Seattle Mariners?

You bet.

Jason Vargas was brilliant on Sunday afternoon and threw his second complete game this month in leading the Mariners to a 2-0 win in the rubber game against the Phillies at Safeco Field.

With Texas losing to Atlanta earlier on Sunday, Seattle inched back to a half-game out of first place in the American League West.

"This is a big wake up call for fans that aren't quite into it yet," Seattle shortstop Brendan Ryan said. "I don't know what you're waiting for now. Two-of-three from the best team in baseball -- I mean, that's enough for me."

After outplaying the best team in baseball and picking up their seventh series win in the last 10, it appears the Mariners (37-35) are beginning to back up good pitching with clutch hits -- something that has been lacking for nearly a decade.

"Doing it here at home against a very good ballclub, it means a great deal. We're fighting for something," Seattle manager Eric Wedge said. "It's another series that they should draw a great deal of confidence from."

And there's no reason not to, especially with the way Vargas was pitching on Sunday.

The 28-year-old lefty was calm and collected on the mound all afternoon, forcing the Phillies (45-28) into a flurry of ground-ball outs and allowing a runner to reach second base just once after the first inning.

After Vargas walked Carlos Ruiz with one out in the fourth inning, he went on to retire 15 consecutive batters. He finally cracked when Philadelphia first baseman Ryan Howard singled to center field with two out in the ninth inning, which led to a meeting on the mound with Wedge.

"I didn't ask him anything," Wedge said. "I just talked to him. Just let him know that this is his game, and to focus pitch by pitch and finish it off."

Wedge made his way off the mound and back to the dugout without making a call for closer Brandon League, which drew some of the loudest applause of the afternoon from the sellout crowd.

"For Wedge to come out there with those crazy eyes and say 'I'm sticking with you, let's get this done,' that's awesome," Ryan said. "That's great stuff from the manager."

Vargas (5-4) came through, getting Ben Francisco to fly out to center field and wrap up his third career complete game.

"That was the first time I had the manager come out in ninth and leave me in," said Vargas, who struck out six and walked two on 119 pitches. "It's a nice feeling that he has that confidence in me to leave me out there to finish my game."

Seattle managed just enough offense to support Vargas and get by Philadelphia starter Cole Hamels, who was, for the most part, impressive on Sunday.

After Hamels (9-3) held the Mariners scoreless for five innings, Ichiro Suzuki got things started in the sixth inning with a one-out single to right field. Ichiro, who extended his hitting streak to eight games, moved to third on a Ryan groundout.

Then, first baseman Justin Smoak sliced a bloop single to left field that scored Ichiro and gave the Mariners a 1-0 lead.

"I knew it had a chance," Smoak said of his hit. "It was a cutter inside that got in on me. Just one of those things where luck was on my side."

The insurance run came in the seventh. Dustin Ackley, who hit his first career home run in Saturday's 5-1 loss, smacked a leadoff triple to right-center. It was the luck of the blooper again, as pinch-hitter Adam Kennedy dropped a single just in front of Phillies left fielder Michael Martinez to score Ackley.

Ackley has now hit safely in all three games since being called up from Triple-A Tacoma on Thursday.

"He's come up here and contributed right away," Wedge said. "That's probably the greatest compliment I can give him."

Now 72 games into the season, Wedge has got a pretty good idea of what kind of baseball his team can play.

"You know what you're going to get," the first-year skipper said. "You know they are going to show up every day and play with the type of focus, passion and intensity that you like to see in a Major League ballclub. They are good teammates that care about [the team printed] across their chest. Arguably, that's as important as anything."

It's a stark contrast from the 2010 team that went 61-101 and finished last in the AL West.

"We want to win," Ryan said. "I don't care about last year. I wasn't here last year -- a lot of us weren't here last year. This is a new year and we're doing things the right way. No disrespect to whatever happened, but this is a great environment and it's all about stacking W's." Comments