"I'm so respectful of what he's done here," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said Friday. "His routine has been better, his work between starts has been better, and because of that his second half has been better. He continues to work to stay strong and stay in shape and be diligent with his whole routine and it's paid off for him."
Vargas will stand in the way of the A's as they race for one of two Wild Card spots in the American League. The left-hander has already made five starts against Oakland this season, going 2-1 in those contests. He's got a 2.36 ERA, allowing just nine runs over 34 1/3 innings of work.
But Vargas hasn't won since Sept. 3 against the Red Sox, with the A's starting his three-start winless streak on Sept. 9. In that game, the A's scored three runs on four hits and a trio of walks in seven innings, handing Vargas his 10th loss of the season.
The A's beat the Mariners, 8-2, in the first game of their three-game set Friday night. Oakland currently holds the second AL Wild Card spot, two games ahead of the division-rival Angels, who were also victorious Friday. The Rays lost their game with the White Sox, and the A's hold a three-game lead on Tampa Bay.
The A's are also one game behind the Orioles for the top AL Wild Card spot.
The A's will send rookie Dan Straily to oppose Vargas on Saturday. The 23-year-old righty is 2-1 on the season, though his fortunes have taken a turn for the worse of late. After the A's won in Straily's first four starts, they're 0-2 in his last two. Last time out against the Rangers, though, Straily went 6 2/3 innings and allowed just two runs (one earned), striking out eight.
Mariners: Gutierrez sits following crash into wall
• Outfielder Franklin Gutierrez didn't play Friday after a catch in Thursday night's game against the Angels sent him running into the outfield wall and out of the game. He was held out Friday with a sore neck, but he said he feels fine and expects to play Saturday.
After falling to A's starter A.J. Griffin on Friday night, the Mariners are 0-5 in games started by pitchers who use their initials this season. They've lost twice to Los Angeles' C.J. Wilson, twice to Griffin and once to New York's CC Sabathia.
Athletics: Looking for longer outings
A's starting pitchers have not made it out of the fifth inning in seven of the last 12 games, and Oakland is just 5-7 in those contests. The A's staff as a whole has posted a 5.07 ERA in those games.
John Jaso's home run on Thursday was his 10th of the season, matching his career total entering the year.
A's outfielder Yoenis Cespedes has picked up just two hits in 13 at-bats this season against Vargas. However, both hits have been home runs.