MILWAUKEE (AP) -Chris Narveson had been dreadful in the first inning of his starts this year. This time, the left-hander got the opening frame out of the way in the bullpen.
Narveson pitched four-hit ball for eight innings and Rickie Weeks hit a leadoff homer, lifting the Milwaukee Brewers to a 3-0 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Sunday.
``It was just a little bit of a tweak in the game plan, try to change a little bit in the pregame and how to approach it and what I was going to do in the first inning,' said Narveson, who allowed 15 opening-inning runs in his previous 11 starts. ``Pregame, when we were warming up, kind of just took it a little easier, sat down for a second, got up and acted like we were facing a couple hitters.'
It worked. The 28-year-old Narveson (7-4) had his first scoreless outing and longest appearance in 17 career starts.
``That was a pretty impressive outing,' Brewers manager Ken Macha said. ``He's got an ability to pitch with a fastball in. He can cut the ball away and can throw the changeup.'
Weeks hit a leadoff homer for the 17th time in his career and finished with four hits for the Brewers, who have won six of seven. Rookie John Axford converted his seventh save.
``The last two weeks, we've been doing our jobs and winning some ballgames,' Weeks said. ``Took three from the Twins and two from Seattle. We're feeling good.'
The Mariners had been feeling good, too, after winning seven of nine, but showed why they traded for slugger Russell Branyan late Saturday night.
Seattle never had a runner on third and none of their five hits landed deeper than shallow center field.
Mariners starter Jason Vargas (6-3) lost for the first time since May 4. He fell behind immediately and got into more trouble in the fifth after walking leadoff hitter Alcides Escobar.
Escobar scored with two outs when Hart doubled to the wall to extend his hitting streak to 12 games.
Fielder then singled sharply to right field to make it 3-0 after getting just four hits in 33 previous situations with runners in scoring position and two outs. Vargas left after the inning.
``I put myself in a hole pretty much every inning that I was out there,' Vargas said.
Hart's home run pace has slowed, but he's still sizzling at the plate, raising his batting average 21 points to .272 in the last 21 days.
Narveson's only early threat came when Milton Bradley doubled in the first, but was stranded. Seattle also had a runner on second in the sixth, eighth and ninth, but each time Narveson and then Axford shut them down.
Axford is still perfect since replacing career saves leader Trevor Hoffman as closer, striking out the side in the ninth. Narveson finished with seven strikeouts.
``He did a nice job getting ahead of our hitters and after that I thought we helped him out quite a bit with pitches outside of the zone and just couldn't get anything going,' Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said.
The Mariners hope Branyan makes a major impact on a team that's struggled all season to score runs in bunches. Seattle's starting lineup against Milwaukee came in with just 22 homers - seven of them by Bradley. The free-swinging Branyan hit .263 with 10 homers and 24 RBIs in 52 games with Cleveland.
``I had a smile on my face,' said Branyan, who would have been the pinch hitter and tying run had the Mariners gotten two on in the ninth. ``(I) said my goodbyes to the guys in Cleveland and moving on. I'm a Seattle Mariner now, and I'm looking forward to being out on the field.'
Branyan, who also played for the Brewers in 2004-05, hit 31 homers for Seattle last year in less than five months and was a driving force behind their improvement before signing a $2 million, one-year contract with the Indians with a mutual option for 2011.
Now, the last-place Mariners hope he can get them back on track again.
``We'll get out of here, go to New York and put it on them,' Branyan said.
NOTES: Bradley (quad) left in the sixth as a precaution. ... Mariners 3B Jose Lopez extended his hitting streak to 11 games. ... Seattle has an off day on Monday. ... Mariners LHP Erik Bedard (shoulder surgery) threw four innings in the Arizona League. Bedard will throw a bullpen Monday and start at Triple-A Tacoma on Thursday. ... The Mariners' pitching rotation against the Yankees will be LHP Cliff Lee (6-3, 2.39 ERA), RHP Felix Hernandez (5-5, 3.28) and LHP Ryan Rowland-Smith (1-7, 6.18).
The Associated Press News Service
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