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July 3, 2012 at 10:49 PM

Mariners avert perfecto, rally to tie…and lose to Orioles

(Photo by Associated Press)
It was a crazy game tonight, with several momentum swings. Early on, I thought Felix Hernandez had no-hit stuff. But coming off a game in which he threw 128 pitches, he was going to have to be economical, and that didn’t happen. He struck out eight through the first four innings — but already had 65 pitches at that point. The no-hitter ended in the third, and after blanking the Orioles over the first five — running his scoreless streak to 20 innings — he gave up five hits and four runs in the sixth before leaving with one out.
“He felt strong, but his pitches flattened out in that last inning, and they got to him,” Wedge said.

Then the focus switched to Orioles starter Wei-Yin Chen, a 26-year-old rookie left-hander signed this winter from Japan, where he had pitched for the Chunichi Dragons. In a game reminiscent of the one just four days ago by Boston’s Aaron Cook that raised Wedge’s ire, he took a perfect game into the seventh. Ichiro struck out, and you had to think that the Mariners had a chance to be the first team in history to have two perfect games thrown against him in the same season. Chen was just eight outs away. But on a 3-2 pitch, that all ended — along with his shutout — when Casper Wells crushed the ball over the left-field wall.
“In that situation, I’m either going to walk, or if he throws off speed or something and gets me out, I’ll tip my cap,” Wells said. “I’m looking fastball in that situation. I know he’s got to throw a strike. It’s a perfect game and I’m pretty much sitting dead red and I got a fastball I could handle.”
Then the story line became a Mariner comeback (after 2 1/3 innings of strong, scoreless relief by Oliver Perez, who has been far more impressive than I think anyone expected). A one-out double by Michael Saunders in the eighth knocked Chen out of the game, and the Mariners rallied for three runs to tie the score. Justin Smoak and pinch-hitter John Jaso had RBI singles, and Kyle Seager walked with the bases loaded. But Jesus Montero, who looks completely lost right now, flied out to leave the bases full. Montero has one RBI since May 30.
Then this one had an anti-climactic ending, with light-hitting Robert Andino connecting on a two-out homer on a 2-2 pitch in the ninth. It came off Charlie Furbush, who entered the game with a scoreless streak of 22 2/3 innings, second longest by a reliever in Mariners history. Keep in mind that Tom Wilhelmsen, who had worked three straight games, was unavailable tonight.
“It was a two-seamer. I wanted to have it sink. It just didn’t sink,” Furbush said. “It stayed flat, and he put a good swing on it. It’s a tough way to lose, after we had battled back. I just didn’t get the job done.”
Andino’s homer was his first since May 7, and fourth of the year.
“Charlie has been fantastic,” Wedge said. “He just left one up in that situation. He’s been good against left-handers and right-handers. I felt he was the best guy to go to at that time.”
So in the end, it was another tough loss for the Mariners. Five of their last eight games have been decided in the last at-bats. They are 11-6 in games decided in the last at-bat but have dropped two in a row.
Asked to rate the Mariners’ frustration level up as Chen’s perfection bid mounted, Wedge said, “It was up there, for everyone. That’s why hats off to Casper for getting us off the hook. Everyone had better at-bats after that.”
But in the end, it still wasn’t good enough.

Comments | Topics: Jesus Montero, Oliver Perez


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