SEATTLE -- Mariners left-hander Jason Vargas looked as if he had no-hit stuff on Thursday night.
Not quite, but Vargas shackled the Royals on one hit in eight innings to give the Mariners a 4-1 victory in front of 15,014 fans at Safeco Field.
The Royals finished with two hits, both doubles by Billy Butler, as they absorbed their 18th loss in the last 24 games. That includes four losses in five games against the Mariners.
Vargas yielded to closer Tom Wilhelmsen in the ninth inning after throwing 115 pitches with three walks, five strikeouts and countless moments of frustration for the Royals.
"There was a lot of Vargas, all right. We just couldn't get anything going," said Royals manager Ned Yost. "Couldn't do anything off of him. He pitched a great game, moved the ball in and out, changed speeds well. Going into the ninth inning I was glad I gave Billy a 3-0 green light -- it was our only hit."
Just when Vargas seemed ready to spend the evening running through the Royals' lineup with unblemished efficiency, he got a bit careless and walked Lorenzo Cain in the fourth inning. That came after Vargas had retired the first 11 batters in order.
Up came Butler who, after looking at three balls, bashed a double into the left-center field gap, scoring Cain to end the no-hitter and the shutout in one swing. It also was the 200th double of Butler's career.
"Ned gave me the green light and I was looking for something out over the plate and I got it and drove it into the gap," Butler said. "But I had no idea that would be the only hit that we had going into the ninth inning."
Yet, that was the case. Wilhelmsen came in throwing heat, getting two outs and freezing Cain with a 101-mph fastball. Up came Butler, and he belted another double, this one into the right-center field gap. Then Mike Moustakas struck out and it was over.
For Vargas, it was his 10th victory in the 14 starts after a Mariners loss. So he is their stopper.
"You've got to give him credit, he threw a lot of pitches in that game and he threw a lot of quality pitches," Butler said. "He had really good stuff and for a guy who's got high 80s stuff, that's a pretty good game for him to throw."
When the Royals took a look at Seattle's lineup before the game, they had to feel pretty confident. Not only were the Mariners the weakest-hitting team in the American League, the last four batters in their lineup were under the .200 mark.
Yet, in the way things are going for the Royals, that unimposing foursome turned into master swatsmiths for the night. They combined to go 7-for-14 and knocked in all four runs.
The Mariners loaded the bases against right-hander Luis Mendoza in the first inning with two outs. That brought up Mike Carp, at .146 the lowest of the four batters in the M's lineup under the Mendoza Line (named, of course, for a different Mendoza).
But, in this moment, Carp looked more like Mike Trout and smacked a two-run single up the middle. That seemed to ignite the Mariners.
"It's always nice to get going, if you get the whole team swinging it makes for a fun ballgame," Carp said.
The fun-seeking Mariners made it 3-1 in the fourth when Carp again singled and eventually came home on an RBI single by Brendan (.188) Ryan. Then, in the sixth, Miguel (.198) Olivo doubled to left center and scored on a double down the right-field line by Carlos (.161) Peguero.
That was four runs and this constituted a major breakout at Safeco Field for the Mariners, who were hitting .193 while averaging a league low of 2.83 runs per game at home.
"Hopefully we put more runs up next time, but 11 hits tonight, that's what we're looking for, especially at Safeco," said Carp, who had three of those hits.
Mendoza was lifted with two on and nobody out in the sixth, but was spared further damage as lefty reliever Jose Mijares arrived to get two strikeouts and an easy groundout.
In five-plus innings, Mendoza gave up nine hits, three walks and four runs and had trouble keeping his sinker down in the zone.
"He was kind of all over the place," Yost said. "He really struggled to command the ball down, got pitches up. But the thing about Mendoza is he competes. It was a grind for him out there today."
It's getting to be a grind for all the Royals. They haven't had back-to-back victories in nearly a month, or since they won their fourth straight game on June 29 at Minnesota.
"We didn't put very good at-bats together all night and it just wasn't a very good performance by us," Alex Gordon said. "It's going to be a long year if we're going to keep playing like this. We need to pick it up."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.