Tonight's game was a game of 3 acts: Innings 1-6, the 7th and 8th, and then the 9th. Felix Hernandez versus Wei-Yin Chen.
In Seattle, on nights when Felix Hernandez pitches, there is something called a "King's Court." It started as the section to the left of the left field foul pole. It has spread like rubella to 3 sections. $30 gets you a ticket, a t-shirt and a K sign. For such a bad team, it's a cool promo, and really this was fan based, but the team was quick on jump on this. I say this because Felix Hernandez is a special pitcher. And tonight, a starting pitcher retired the first 19 men he faced. And it wasn't Felix Hernandez.
Wei Yin Chen was on tonight, mixing his pitches against a pretty woeful team, and when a talented pitcher is on against a bad team, nights like tonight can happen. And Chen was simply fabulous. The lefty threw a "sneaky fast" fastball at 90 and kept the Mariners off balance all night. In those 19 men he retired consecutively, I'm not even sure how many balls were hard hit, outside of a liner that almost decapitated Chen off the bat of Brendan Ryan. The Orioles actually managed to have good at bats throughout the night against Felix, who worked to get his 8 strikeouts. This strategy, frankly something astonishing consider how seemingly OBP averse the Orioles have been since forever, paid off in the sixth, when the Orioles laced 4 singles in a row, off the bats of Xavier Avery, JJ Hardy, Chris Davis and Adam Jones. Following a Jim Thome groundout, Matt Wieters singled again to drive in Davis and Jones, and the Orioles were up 4 to 0 in the top of the 5th. Chen retired the Mariners in order in the bottom of the fifth and the sixth. And I started to wonder the longest game I had ever attended in which one team failed to record a hit, or even a runner.
More below the jump!
Ichiro! led off the bottom of the 7th striking out. Up next was Oriole killer and Towson U alum Casper Wells. Wells worked the count full. I was at the game with a friend and we decided that there was no way the umpire was going to call a ball here. It was a moot point, as Wells crushed the fastball over the manual scoreboard in left field. Perfecto, no-no and shutout all gone on 1 pitch. But the Orioles had a game to win. Chen completed the seventh without incident. Following another quiet inning against the Mariner bullpen, Chen came out in the 8th, retired Miguel Olivo but Michael Saunders launched a pitch deep into left flield, despite the worthy efforts of Xavier Avery. With a man on second and 1 out, up 3 runs, Buck Showalter removed Chen (97 pitches to this point) from the game in favor of Pedro Strop. And Pedro Strop would blow up. Strop would yield a run scoring single to Justin Smoak and another single to Dustin Ackley. Predictably, Eric Wedge pinch hit his best pinch hitter in this situation, and called on John Jaso. For whatever the reason, Showalter did not have Patton up in the pen to retire a lefty, and Jaso took advantage of the matchup and laced a single off of Strop. Ichiro! would reach on a fielder's choice. Down a run with 2 outs, Casper Wells would again figure prominently. Somehow, Strop hit Wells, though from my perch it definitely looked like Wells was in the act of swinging, which would mean it wasn't a HBP. Strangely I was not consulted. Kyle Seager would draw a bases loaded 2 out walk, and the game was tied. All that work for nothing and the Orioles were now tied with Mariners at 4 a piece.
In the 9th, the Mariners would bring in Charlie Furbush who has been nothing short of amazing this year. Furbush retired WIlson Betemit to the biggest part in a huge ballpark, but simply a long out. Mark Reynolds pinch hit for fearless Ryan Flaherty and popped out. Up stepped Robert Andino. I looked at the scoreboard and Andino against lefties this year hasn't been anything special, but I know in the past he has. On a 2-2 pitch, Andino launched a line drive that sailed over the LF fence, and gave the Orioles a 5-4 lead. I'm not sure if he had last night on his mind, but I would like to think so. With the Orioles up 5 to 4, JJ could come in and do what he does. The Mariners went down quietly, 1-2-3, and the game was over.