Jason Vargas gave up just three hits over nine innings -- in the left-hander's… (Chris Carlson / Associated…)
Jason Vargas may have finally come up with a solution for the troubles plaguing the Angels' bullpen: Don't use it.
The left-hander turned in a masterful outing Friday, shutting out the Baltimore Orioles on three hits in a 4-0 Angel victory. It was his second complete game in as many starts — or two more than the rest of the staff combined — and this time he made sure no reliever had to do so much as warm up until there was one out in the ninth.
"Our job as starters is to go out there and try to finish the game every time around," said Vargas, who got 15 ground-ball outs. "It's not always going to happen."
BOX SCORE: Angels 4, Baltimore 0
For the Angels, it hardly ever happens, with Vargas and Joe Blanton the only starters who have gotten an out beyond the seventh inning this season. And that they did that in back-to-back games is huge, said Manager Mike Scioscia.
"What Jason did today is not only big for our club but big for our bullpen. And it's a great time for it," he said.
"For this whole pitching side to work, our starters have to get deeper. And we're starting to see that."
Mark Trumbo gave Vargas the only run he would need in the second inning, driving Miguel Gonzalez's first pitch to the flagpoles beyond the wall in left-center field for his team-leading seventh home run of the season.
Erick Aybar nearly doubled the score an inning later when he lined a ball into the right-field corner. That shot hit the padding where the four-foot barrier joins the fence running along the old bullpen, with only the thickness of the protective foam keeping it from going over the wall.
But Mike Trout more than made up for that in the fifth, hitting a two-run, two-out homer into the foliage behind the wall in straight-away center. Trout drove home another run with a two-out single in the seventh, his team-leading 20th run batted in of the season, 11 of which have come with two out.
"I keep the same approach. One out, two outs, no outs. Same approach," said Trout, who had his third two-hit game in four days.
The Orioles, meanwhile, had just one runner reach base through the first four innings and they didn't get their first hit until J.J. Hardy grounded a single through the right side of the infield with two outs in the fifth. They came close to scoring just once, when Adam Jones led off the seventh with a double, only to be retired in a rundown between third and home two batters later.
It was all downhill from there for Vargas (1-3), who finished off the fourth shutout of his career but his first since 2011. It was also the third consecutive quality start for the left-hander, who has given up just five runs in his last 24 innings, lowering his ERA by more than three runs a game, to 3.72.
But it says something about the Angels bullpen — which cost Vargas two wins earlier in the season — that Friday's game also marked his first victory in six starts.
"It was just one of those games where the balls that they hit hard happened to go at people," he said.