Brendan Ryan's RBI single is difference in Mariners' victory over A's

SEATTLE -- Brendan Ryan works with Seattle hitting coach Chris Chambliss every day and often gets encouragement from Mariners staff members at Safeco Field.

Even a few hotel doormen have offered advice, trying to help Ryan out of his season-long malaise at the plate.

Finally, it appears something is working.

Ryan hit a tiebreaking single in the eighth inning to send Seattle to a 3-2 win over the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday night.

The light-hitting infielder has a .182 average but is batting .323 with seven RBIs in his last 10 games. He thinks his balance at the plate has been a big reason for the recent turnaround and he knows he can't dwell on his prior struggles.

"Not many guys handle it very well, whether it's your second year in or your 14th year in," Ryan said. "It's not fun. It's not easy to deal with failure. Especially when you're playing every day and it's Groundhog Day every day. It's not for lack of putting the work in or hunger or effort."

Ryan's hit off reliever Jim Miller drove in Casper Wells, who singled and stole second.

Miller (2-1) had given up only three earned runs in 23 2/3 innings coming into the game before Ryan lined an RBI single over leaping second baseman Jemile Weeks.

That made a winner of reliever Charlie Furbush (4-1), who pitched around two walks in the eighth. Tom Wilhelmsen worked a clean ninth inning for his sixth save in seven tries.

Ryan's hit and the late bullpen work picked up Brandon League, who took over for starter Jason Vargas in the seventh and allowed the tying run on a single by Jonny Gomes. Derek Norris also singled before League retired Cliff Pennington to keep the score tied at 2.

That left Vargas without a decision even though he matched a career high with 10 strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings. The left-hander allowed three hits and two earned runs.

Yoenis Cespedes hit his eighth home run for Oakland when he smashed a line drive over the left-center fence in the seventh. It was the 21st home run allowed this season by Vargas, who gave up a career-high 22 last season.

Vargas' changeup away was a dominant pitch against Oakland's right-handed batters.

"There was something that needed to change and I needed to get my changeup to a point where it was a factor in the game," Vargas said.

Travis Blackley went seven innings for the A's, giving up two runs and five hits. He struck out three and walked one before leaving because of a stiff back.

"Over the last year, it's been coming and going," Blackley said. "It was great early and just kind of started getting a bit stiff on me, so they thought it was best to go with a fresh guy."

Franklin Gutierrez's third-inning drive to center field that hit the top of the wall scored Dustin Ackley and ended another ignominious Seattle offensive streak of 25 scoreless innings.

Prior to Gutierrez's double, Seattle hadn't scored since the fourth inning of Saturday night's game in San Diego. The Mariners' record for consecutive scoreless innings is 30, set last season when the team had the fewest runs in the majors.

Oakland put two runners on in the eighth when Furbush walked Weeks, then later intentionally walked Cespedes. Furbush struck out Brandon Inge to end the threat.

"Even if he is struggling some, he has good at-bats off left-handers," A's manager Bob Melvin said, explaining his confidence in Inge. "We don't expect him to hit .350. He's going to have struggles at the plate like anyone else."

Ackley and Ichiro Suzuki singled ahead of Gutierrez's double in the third. Kyle Seager drove in Suzuki with a sacrifice fly to put Seattle in front 2-0, but Gutierrez was thrown out at third when trying to tag and advance.

Vargas rolled through the first six innings. He struck out the side in the second and fifth, allowing just a hit. Vargas hit Gomes with an 0-2 pitch in the third, giving Oakland its first runner, and allowed his first hit in the fourth.

Blackley matched him following the bumpy third. He allowed just two runners over the next four innings -- a walk to Wells and a single by Suzuki -- before covering first on a groundout to end the seventh.

Vargas faced the minimum through the first three innings, pumping in strikes. Of his first 34 pitches, 26 were strikes.

"You could tell right from the beginning of the ballgame that he was more aggressive," Seattle manager Eric Wedge said.

Vargas combined with Monday's starter, Erasmo Ramirez, to become the first Seattle duo to strikeout 10-plus batters in consecutive outings since Paul Abbott and Freddy Garcia in August 1999.

Blackley's last start at Safeco Field was July 21, 2004, when he was pitching for the Mariners and faced the A's. He received a no-decision.

Game notes
The Mariners improved to 13-20 at home. They have played the most road games (43) in the majors. ... Ramirez became the eighth Seattle rookie to have a double-digit strikeout game when he whiffed 10 Oakland batters on Monday. ... The A's came in leading the majors in runs (118) and walks (90) in June.