Mariners score just one earned run, which former Mariner Adam Jones matches in the first inning with a homer
It was a reminder of the struggles of May and June where base runners were stranded and opportunities squandered. Since the All-Star break, the Mariners’ offense had been somewhat more competent, getting runners on base and actually scoring runs with some regularity.
But on a pleasant Monday night at Safeco Field, that improving offense was stymied by the Baltimore Orioles’ pitching duo of starter Wei-Yin Chen and All-Star reliever Zach Britton.
Chen tossed 71/3 solid innings, allowing just one run and Britton allowed an unearned run in the final 12/3 innings to lead Baltimore to a 3-2 victory over the Mariners.
But really, Baltimore was just better Monday night. The Mariners didn’t make any ghastly mistakes or give the game away. They got beat by a team still fighting for the postseason.
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After looking crisp and sharp for the first eight innings, the Orioles tried to allow Seattle back into the game in the bottom of the ninth with a series of mistakes that led to that unearned run off Britton.
Shortstop J.J. Hardy couldn’t handle the hard ground ball from Nelson Cruz to start the inning. But Cruz was immediately erased when Robinson Cano grounded into a 6-4-3 double play.
With two outs, Franklin Gutierrez doubled into left-center. He advanced to third on a wild pitch and then scored when catcher Caleb Joseph couldn’t handle Austin Jackson’s swinging strike three.
But the rally ended when Britton struck out Jesus Montero, who represented the winning run, on three pitches to pick up his 28th save of the season.
“It’s one of the few games where they just beat us,” Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon said. “We played a good game and they played a good game and they beat us. Those games happen in baseball. We battled and came up just a little short.”
Chen didn’t make that battle easy. He pitched into the eighth inning and was lifted after walking Mark Trumbo with one out and having thrown 111 pitches. He allowed just one run on three hits with two walks and five strikeouts against a stacked lineup of right-handed hitters.
“He’s seemed to have our number this year,” McClendon said. “He’s thrown the ball extremely well against us. I thought tonight he was locating extremely well. He pitched in effectively and mixed in a few breaking balls. He short-armed that fastball and it really got us quite a bit.”
The Orioles grabbed an immediate lead in the first inning. One-time Mariners’ prospect and now lamentable trade trivia answer Adam Jones offered another reminder of how regrettable that deal to acquire Erik Bedard was for the Mariners. Jones hammered a 1-1 slider from Seattle starter Vidal Nuno for a solo homer for a 1-0 lead. It was Jones’ 18th homer of the season.
“The scouting report said stay away with him and sure enough he just flicked it over the fence,” Nuno said. “He’s a good hitter.”
The Mariners answered with a solo homer of their own in the second inning. Gutierrez, who had missed the past few games because of the flu, hit a 2-1 fastball from Chen for his fifth homer of the season.
The Orioles took the lead for good in the fourth inning. Jones doubled to the left-field corner and later scored on Chris Davis’ hard ground ball through the right side.
“The next at-bat I tried to come inside to (Jones) and sure enough he got his hands inside and pulled that little double,” Nuno said.
Nuno worked five innings, giving up two runs on five hits with no walks and five strikeouts on 94 pitches.
“He left up two pitches to Adam Jones, but other than that, I thought he did a pretty nice job,” McClendon said. “He got built up almost to 100 pitches, which is good.”
With Chen cruising, Davis added an insurance run for him, crushing a first-pitch 96-mph fastball from Mayckol Guaipe over the wall in center field to make it 3-1. It was Davis’ 30th homer.
It was the only real mistake Guaipe made in his three innings of work. He allowed just that one hit, while walking one and striking out a batter.
Rob Rasmussen, who blew up for six runs allowed in his last outing, bounced back with a solid top of the ninth.
“Our young relievers did a nice job, four innings and one run out of the bullpen is not bad,” McClendon said.
Also not bad was Nelson Cruz extending his hitting streak to 20 games with a fourth-inning single for Seattle.