By MIKE LIPKA
(AP) -- The Seattle Mariners are about to begin the first series at Safeco Field without Ichiro Suzuki on either team's roster since 2000.
Jason Vargas may soon follow him out of town.
The left-hander has probably boosted his trade value with an impressive stretch of pitching, which means Thursday night's start against the Kansas City Royals could be his last in a Mariners uniform.
Seattle (43-57) seems unlikely to make another deal as significant as Monday's trade, which sent Suzuki to the New York Yankees. The Japanese star walked across to the visitors' clubhouse and helped the Yankees take two of three at Safeco this week.
With the Mariners a distant last in the AL West, they could opt to move some other pieces before Tuesday's non-waiver trade deadline. Contenders may be interested in Vargas, who has won three straight starts and posted a 1.77 ERA while going unbeaten in his last five.
Vargas (10-7, 3.91 ERA) matched his career high in wins by beating Tampa Bay on Saturday, allowing only an unearned run in six innings of a 2-1 victory. It has certainly helped that he's gone at least six innings in 18 of his 21 starts.
"I'm excited and I want to win more," Vargas told the Mariners' official website.
Vargas has served up more homers (25) than any other pitcher in the majors, but he ended a streak of 12 straight starts giving up at least one Saturday. He won his third consecutive start against Kansas City with a 9-4 victory July 16 even though Billy Butler and Salvador Perez took him deep.
Butler hit his 20th homer Wednesday - he'll match his career-high total from 2009 with his next one - but the Royals (41-56) lost 11-6 to the Los Angeles Angels. It was their 10th defeat in 13 road games, and they're an AL-worst 6-15 overall in July.
Kansas City can't blame Luis Mendoza for its recent woes. The right-hander has posted four straight quality starts and six in seven outings since re-entering the rotation last month.
Mendoza (4-6, 4.31) pitched into the seventh inning of a 7-3 win over Minnesota on Saturday.
"I started up in the zone a little bit," he said. "I just tried to get some groundballs, get below. My job is to get groundballs. I just want to pitch my game, stay aggressive and try to win games."
Mendoza's groundball rate is at a career-best 69.1 percent, which would rank among the major league leaders if he had enough innings to qualify.
He should be eager to face a Seattle offense that has scored two runs or fewer in more than half of its home games (24 of 47). The Mariners are batting .193 at home after totaling three hits - all singles - in Wednesday's 5-2 loss to the Yankees.
"We hit the ball hard a few times, just right at the wrong guys," said first baseman Mike Carp, who is 0 for 6 since returning from the disabled list and 4 for 38 (.105) in Seattle this year. "Sometimes you do the right things and don't get rewarded."
Seattle totaled 31 runs in taking three of four at Kansas City last week. Jesus Montero was 10 for 17 with eight RBIs in that series.
Updated July 25, 2012