Coming into tonight's matchup, you had to like your chances with Wei-Yin Chen going against Aaron Harang. Like a lot of people, Chen has strong career numbers against the Mariners. And the pre-game buzz was that this might be Aaron Harang's last hurrah, given that his ERA in his 3 starts resulted in 3 losses and an ERA north of 11. But tonight was not the Orioles night.
The Orioles went fairly quietly in the first with 2 fly outs and a K. This was something of an ominous sign since a fly ball pitcher like Harang seemingly could only possibly succeed in a cavernous ballpark like Safeco. And even though the fences were brought in, you really can't change the heavy marine air. Chen's difficult night would start after retiring the first two Mariner hitters. But a single off the bat of Kendrys Morales that touched Adam Jones' glove, a walk to Michael Morse, a double off the bat of rejuvenated Jason Bay and a walk to Justin Smoak netted a run and the bases juiced for Dustin Ackley. But Chen was able to escape with a strikeout. And I wondered if the team could capitalize.
The Orioles would finally hit a ball hard in the second, a 2 out double off the bat of Matt Wieters. But JJ Hardy would strand him. The bottom of the second would not be kinder to Chen. Despite the best efforts of Adam Jones - and his bubblegum - Jesus Montero would hit first career triple. Chen would strikeout Robert Andino, but Michael Saunders laced a single scoring Montero. The speedy Saunders would steal second off the lefty Chen and Wieters, but Chen would battle back to retire Kyle Seager. Two outs, man on second. Another opportunity for a stranded runner. But Kendrys Morales would drill a 2 out single past a diving Ryan Flaherty for a run scoring single. Chen would strikeout Morse to retire the side, but the Mariners were up 3 after 2.
The Orioles would again lay down in the third and the fourth. While Chen didn't allow a run in the third, it was largely due to fine defensive work by Markakis (catching a ball in the stands) and Manny Machado (a pretty over the shoulder grab). So Chen had struggled through 3 going to the 4th. Michael Saunders would drop down a bunt to lead off the inning. Chen retires the next two hitters, but Michael Morse dropped a bomb to right, and just like that the Mariners were up 5. Aaron Harang kept the Orioles off the board in the fifth and Zach Clark came out to relieve the Chen to start the bottom of the fifth. It was Zach Clark's major league debut, which is always special, especially considering the road for the 29 year old UMBC farmhand. He gets a ground out from Justin Smoak. He walked the next man but retired the next two. Down 5 heading to the top of the six, Harang retires the first two easily, but Manny Machado finally wakes up the bats, smoking a double to center. Markakis followed that up with a run scoring single and Adam Jones follows this up with a run scoring double! Up comes Chris Davis to make this a ballgame. And as he sometimes do, Davis strikes out with Harang on the ropes.
And then it would unravel. Saunders would collect another single. Seager would line a single. Morales would plate them both on a double to center. Two sacrifice flies later and it was 8-2. Clark would strikeout Ackley to retire the side, but damage done. Carter Capps would come in and retire the Orioles in order in the 7th. TJ McFarland turned a strong 1-2-3 7th.
To the Orioles credit, they would again mount a comeback. Again with 2 outs, Manny Machado would smash a ball that nearly hit the cameraman in left field to bring the Orioles within 5. Markakis and Jones would single back to back. And up comes Davis again. The Mariners bring in a lefty, and he makes it look easy, retiring Davis without much protest. Pedro Strop pitched an eventful - but scoreless - eighth inning. He walked two and threw a wild pitch while striking out Morales. But with the bases loaded, he was able to get a twin killing. The Orioles went quietly in the 9th and now have lost 3 of 4.