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The Mariners haven’t quite solved the riddle that is Wei-Yin Chen. The Orioles’ lefty continued his mastery over Seattle hitters this season, tossing 7 1/3 strong innings and leading Baltimore to a 2-1 win at Camden Yards.
Chen (12-3) was making his second consecutive start against Seattle this season. And with his eight-shutout innings for a win at Safeco on July 30, Chen picked up back-to-back wins, while giving up just one run in 15 1/3 innings pitched with 11 strikeouts and just two walks.
Seeing Chen twice in 10 days didn’t make things any easier for Seattle.
“I thought our at-bats were pretty good for the most part,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “They played a better game than we did. It was a hard fought game. It’s one of those games where they beat you, you didn’t lose.”
What were the hitters seeing?
“He’s tough,” Robinson Cano. “He was throwing everything for a strike. He’s not a guy you can say, ‘ok, I’m going to sit on the fastball.’ He throws everything for a strike. He’s not going to give you just anything.”
The Mariners unveiled their new lineup to combat left-handed pitching, starting right-handed hitting outfielders Austin Jackson and Chris Denorfia, a day after trading for them in separate deals.
Their impact at least for this game was minimal. They combined to go 0-for-7 with a walk though both players did fly into Baltimore on Friday and arrived right before batting practice.
“I felt both of those guys made our lineup look real nice,” McClendon said. “It’s a very competitive lineup and it’s a lineup I’m proud to write out every day. I think if we play as hard and with as much energy as we played with tonight and if we get that type of pitching performance, we’re going to win our shares of game.”
On paper, it should make the Mariners better against pitchers like Chen. But they weren’t on this particular evening. Chen showed solid command with his fastball and slider keeping hitters off balance and allowing just five hits and striking out eight. His first walk came on the last batter he faced, issuing Jackson a free pass with one out in the eighth inning.
“His off-speed was never up in the zone and his fastball was on the corners or off, never down the middle,” said Mike Zunino, who went 0-for-3 against Chen with two strikeouts. “He just didn’t miss over the heart the plate. It’s been a few starts in a row for him doing that. When you limit your mistakes, guys can’t really hurt you that much.”
Mariners’ starter Roenis Elias, who was celebrating his 26th birthday, took the loss. to fall to 8-9. He pitched 5 2/3 innings, giving up two runs (one earned) on seven hits with seven strikeouts and one walk.
He was one pitch away from keeping the game tied at 1-1 in after six innings. With runners on first and second and two outs, Elias’ 3-2 fastball to J.J. Hardy was supposed to be on the inside corner but it caught too much of the plate. Hardy hammered a single up the middle, just out of the reach of a diving Cano, to score Manny Machado with the winning run.
“I thought I was going to come up with it, but it stayed down,” Cano said
The Orioles grabbed a 1-0 lead in the third inning. Delmon Young led off with a double to right to start the problems. He later came around to score on Machado’s single up the middle on a changeup that Elias left up in the zone.
“I thought Elias was a lot sharper tonight and really competed well,” McClendon said. “There were a couple tough pitches he probably didn’t get. There were a couple of tough pitches that Chen did get. That’s baseball.”
The Mariners finally got on the board in the fourth inning. Cano singled to left with one out. Kendrys Morales followed with a double into the left field corner that gave Young, far from a gold glove defender, trouble as it bounced off the wall. Third base coach Rich Donnelly gambled and waved Cano around third. The decision paid off. Hardy’s relay throw arrived just before Cano slid in, but catcher Caleb Joseph couldn’t handle the throw and Cano was safe, tying the game at 1-1.
Seattle had a few chances to get that second run, but stranded runners in scoring position in the fifth, sixth and eighth inning.
Still, Cano believes the additions will help the Mariners in the final two months of the season.
“You just have to give them a chance,” Cano said. “It’s hard when you travel all day and it’s your first game with a new team. These guys are experienced. They will help.”