Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Jason Vargas throws against the Tampa Bay Rays during the first inning of a baseball game, Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Scott Iskowitz)
ST. PETERSBURG, Florida (AP) -- The Los Angeles Angels were 18 1/2 games out of first place when they started what manager Mike Scioscia called "our little burst" - winning five of six to start a nine-game road trip.
Better late than never, according to pitcher Jason Vargas.
"The year's not over," Vargas said after Thursday's 2-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays. "If we keep winning like this, we'll take it."
Vargas (8-5) allowed two hits and three walks while striking out seven over seven innings. He gave up a leadoff double to Desmond Jennings in the first inning, but worked out of a bases-loaded jam and stayed in control.
"Jennings hit a breaking ball that was up off the wall," he said. "After that I didn't feel like I was struggling to make pitches."
Vargas was in firm enough command to talk Scioscia into sending him out for the seventh inning.
"It was big getting out of the first inning, and from there he pitched deep into the game. Can't ask much more from Jason," Scioscia said. "He was adamant, said `I feel great,' and went out there and pitched the seventh. He finished up strong, so that was a great sign."
The left-hander matched his season-high of 114 pitches before Dane De La Rosa pitched the eighth and Ernesto Frieri pitched the ninth for his 28th save.
"I guess (Scioscia) did let me go back out there. It was nice of him," Vargas said. "I felt like getting out of that first inning, it starts to push the momentum your way."
"When you get on something like that early, it gets the guys fired up," he said.
The Rays, who have lost four of five, threatened again in the ninth. Rookie Wil Myers drew a leadoff walk from Frieri and went to third on Yunel Escobar's one-out double. Frieri retired Kelly Johnson on a foul pop and pitch-hitter David DeJesus on a flyball.
The Rays were shut out for the seventh time this season.
"Frustrating is a great word for today. It's very frustrating. The whole day reeked of frustration ," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "Had the opportunity early, gave it up."
Jake Odorizzi (0-1) gave up one run and four hits in five innings in his first start since being called up from Triple-A Durham on Wednesday.
Luis Jimenez and Kole Calhoun each drove in a run for the Angels.
Jimenez, recalled from Triple-A Salt Lake before the game after third baseman Chris Nelson went on the disabled list with a strained right hamstring, hit an RBI single in the second. He finished with two hits and had a throwing error at third.
Los Angeles made it 2-0 on Calhoun's run-scoring single off Alex Torres in the sixth.
NOTES: Angels CF Peter Bourjos was mad after striking out in the seventh, but not as upset as it looked when he threw down his bat and it almost bounced into the Los Angeles dugout. "The turf took over and ejected the bat about 65 feet," Bourjos said. ... Los Angeles slugger Josh Hamilton (shoulder) was the DH for the second consecutive game. He went 0 for 3 with a walk and had his career-high road hitting streak end at 15 games. ... In their two wins at Tampa Bay, Angels pitchers gave up 13 hits and 14 walks. ... Angels 1B Mark Trumbo, in a 3-for-22 skid, was rested. He entered in the eighth as defensive replacement.
For a full game box score, click here