ARLINGTON -- Wednesday's starter, Jason Vargas, acknowledged taking a peek at the scoreboard at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington -- the one that tracks pitch counts -- but said that he never stole at a glance at the sign in left-center that shows the temperature.
Both numbers were in the triple digits as Vargas tried to battle through the seventh inning of the final game of the Mariners' three-game series with the Rangers. Fortunately for him, he kept the Rangers' run total just low enough in a 4-3 victory that averted a sweep.
It was 102 degrees when Vargas threw his first pitch and only a few degrees cooler when he threw his 121st and final pitch -- the most he has ever thrown in 89 career Major League starts -- to end the seventh inning.
"I knew where I was at, but ... physically I felt fine," Vargas said.
Vargas allowed six hits and four walks but kept the damage to a minimum, yielding only three earned runs to improve to 7-10 on the season.
He ran into little trouble in the first three innings, then unraveled in the fourth and fifth, surrendering a homer in each of those frames before regaining his composure to pitch a scoreless sixth and seventh. Josh Hamilton's solo shot in the fourth and Ian Kinsler's two-run blast in the fifth represented the Rangers' only runs.
Vargas outdueled fellow lefty Derek Holland, who allowed three runs -- two earned, the other a result of his own fielding error -- on seven hits and five walks. He also struck out seven.
Seattle might have routed Texas had Holland and three Rangers relievers not pitched out of several jams. The Mariners left nine men on base against Holland and a total of 13.
"We hit the ball well today, a lot of base hits, left some runners on, but we made some hard outs, too," manager Eric Wedge said. "I think if you look at the quality of our at-bats, they're much better than they were a couple of weeks ago."
The Mariners went ahead in the top of the seventh, getting a leadoff base hit from Mike Carp, who had hit a two-run homer in the third. Franklin Gutierrez singled to move Carp to second, then Casper Wells drove in Carp with a hard bouncer to third baseman Michael Young. Young had time to turn the play, but the ball hopped over his glove for an RBI single.
"Usually, with hard-hit balls like that, they don't take crazy hops -- you just have to pick them," Young said. "I don't know what it hit, but it shot straight up in the air. I had a bead on it. He smoked it, but I had a bead on it."
Relievers Jamey Wright and Brandon League pitched scoreless eighth and ninth innings for their 13th hold and 27th save, respectively.
In the second inning, the Mariners scored the first run of the game on a gift from Holland. With the bases loaded, Holland attempted to get a forceout at home on a dribbler to the mound. But instead of fielding the ball with his glove and flipping it home in one motion, he tried to transfer the ball to his left hand and dropped it, and Gutierrez scored on the error.
The Mariners added a pair of runs in the third thanks to the No. 3 and 4 hitters in the lineup, both of them rookies. Dustin Ackley reached on an infield single, and Carp drove a two-run homer into the grassy batter's eye in center field.
Carp has been on a roll lately, hitting .367 in the 12 games entering Wednesday. He extended his career-high hitting streak to 11 games with the homer.
"We're all getting an opportunity here. We're all trying to take advantage of it as best we can, and we're doing pretty well for as young as we are," said Carp, who improved his season average to .310.
Dave Sessions is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.