Seattle broke a 17-game losing streak on Wednesday, but Tampa Bay prevailed in an 8-0 shutout in Friday's series opener. The Mariners came back to take a 3-2 win on Saturday, improving to 17-18 in one-run games. Vargas, 0-4 with a 6.86 ERA in his last four starts, wants to help Seattle restore momentum.
"We've done good as a pitching staff all year and we've kind of hit a speed bump," he said. "We just have to try to find that groove again and get back to putting up zeroes on the board and giving us a chance to win ballgames, because we're not really keeping the team in games right now."
Vargas has been streaky this season, and the Mariners want to unleash the pitcher who went 3-2 with a 2.28 ERA in six starts immediately prior to his four-start skid.
"I still think the key for him is just command," said Seattle manager Eric Wedge. "I felt like he was a little better [in last outing against the Yankees], but not quite on par. A couple calls went against us, we booted the ball around a little, too. That was as much a difference as anything for him."
The Rays, meanwhile, will be going with one of the leading contenders for the American League's Rookie of the Year Award. Hellickson has hit a little bit of a speed bump in losing four of his last six decisions, but he began working on a new grip to his curveball in his last start and will see how it works Sunday.
"I didn't throw too many [in Oakland], but I feel more comfortable throwing strikes with it, getting ahead with it," he said. "Last game, I did struggle a little bit with it, but I am getting more comfortable. ... It's just a new grip."
One thing in his favor? Hellickson has made one career start in Seattle, and he went into the eighth inning and limited the Mariners to three hits and one run. Quite simply, he likes pitching there.
"I don't know why it is. I feel comfortable on this mound," said Hellickson of his lone experience pitching at Safeco Field. "Sometimes you feel comfortable and sometimes you don't."
Rays: Zobrist extends streak
Ben Zobrist started at second base Saturday and delivered an RBI single for Tampa Bay, extending his hit streak to 10 games and 17 of his last 20 games. Zobrist has batted third or fourth in the lineup in eight straight games and is batting .368 (28-for-76) over the life of his longer streak.
Mariners: Wells, Furbush due Sunday
Seattle traded Doug Fister and David Pauley to Detroit on Saturday, and newly acquired players Casper Wells and Charlie Furbush will join the team on Sunday. Wells, a 26-year-old outfielder, was batting .257 with a .323 on-base and a .451 slugging percentage in 64 games as a reserve for the Tigers.
Furbush, a 25-year-old left-hander, is 1-3 with a 3.62 ERA in 17 appearances for Detroit this season. The former fourth-round draftee started 69 of the 73 games he pitched in the Minors, racking up a 25-20 record and a 3.71 ERA. Furbush had 406 strikeouts and just 102 walks in 386 innings in the Minor Leagues.
Seattle also received Minor League infielder Francisco Martinez and a player to be named later in the trade. ... Michael Pineda became the seventh rookie in Mariners history to strike out 10 or more batters in a game Saturday. ... Seattle reliever Brandon League notched a save on Saturday, his first since July 4 against Oakland -- two days before the 17-game losing streak started. ... Tampa Bay has been one-hit twice this season.