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Orioles take series opener from Mariners with 4-0 win; Wei-Yin Chen goes 8, Delmon Young hits 3-run HR

The Orioles beat the Seattle Mariners in the opening game of their four-game series by a 4-0 score. Wei-Yin Chen pitched eight shutout innings for the Orioles, who got most of their offense on a three-run home run off the bat of Delmon Young.

Hannah Foslien

The Orioles are a good baseball team. Some people, especially me, need to keep that in mind. That's the reality. The Orioles are good. Even a daunting stretch of ten games on the road against three good AL West teams is not a thing to dread. The O's will hang tough, compete, and find ways to win. Thursday, as they opened a series against the Mariners, they showed this quality yet again, beating Seattle 4-0.

Against the likes of Hisashi Iwakuma, there might have been plenty of reason to worry. He came into the game allowing an ERA under 3 for the season. The Orioles were not concerned by this, breaking out for one big inning, which was all that they would need.

Their third inning rally began in unlikely places, with the 8-9 tandem of Ryan Flaherty and Caleb Joseph each reaching on a single. Nick Markakis added another single, far enough into no man's land that Flaherty was able to score on the play. They had three hits and one run scored without ever hitting the ball hard. Then came Delmon Young, a hulking figure who usually looms from the bench.

Iwakuma made a mistake. The Orioles, free-swingers that they are, will make a pitcher pay. Young swung at the mistake pitch, hanging in a tantalizing location over home plate, and blasted a ball out into the Orioles bullpen beyond the left field fence. That brought everybody home, Joseph, Markakis, and Young, giving the Orioles the 4-0 lead that was all they would get and all they would need.

Across the game's nine innings, the Mariners never had more than four men come to the plate in any one inning. They got nowhere at any time, even when it looked like they might get somewhere. Chen overcame the dread of walking the game's first batter, James Jones, even though Jones stole second and then advanced to third with only one out thanks to a groundout.

Seattle's high-priced free agent acquisition, Robinson Cano, tapped a ball to the first base side of the mound. Chen came in on the ball, gloved it, and shoveled it towards home plate, the only play he had. James Jones, attempting to score on the play, was tagged out.

This play was subject to a crew chief review that lasted for nearly four minutes as the central MLB umpires apparently debated over whether Caleb Joseph was inappropriately blocking home plate. Replays showed clearly that Joseph allowed the runner a lane to the plate. The replay was more ambiguous on the subject of whether Jones beat Joseph's tag, but the Mariners did not challenge that.

This was as close as Seattle came to scoring in the entire game. The Mariners never even had another runner get into scoring position for the whole night. No extra base hits will do that to you.

Chen was dropping them like flies, helped every now and again by his defense, like another heads up play in the fourth inning by Joseph. Leading off the bottom of the fourth, Cano hit another weak grounder down the first base line. Joseph grabbed the ball out of midair, in foul territory, before the ball could land and be called foul. It's fair until it lands. He threw Cano out easily. Cano protested the ball was foul. This effort was in vain.

Joseph also had two of the Orioles' eight hits. That only raises his average to .195 on the season, but his contributions to this team, as in tonight's game, can't be denied.

In all, Chen went eight innings on the night, tying his career high. He navigated two full innings beyond once he had reached 85 pitches, which is ordinarily the disaster zone for Chen. Though he only struck out three batters, he also only gave up five hits. Seattle is not a great hitting team to begin with, but they looked even worse than their reputation against Chen's arsenal.

Other than the four hits in the third inning, the O's didn't do a whole lot against Iwakuma. The damage was already done, though. Iwakuma finished his night having gone seven innings, with four runs on seven hits. He walked none, which is unsurprising for a guy who's only walked eight all year facing the Orioles, and struck out five. That's not an awful night, and it's a night that a good offense might bail out the pitcher.

Iwakuma was not so lucky as all of that, taking the loss to fall to 8-5 on the year. Chen was credited with the win, raising his record to 11-3, leading the team in wins. Bud Norris is the next closest, with eight.

Darren O'Day added a perfect ninth for the O's. Needing only two pitchers is a good way to start out a four game series, don't you think?

With the win, the Orioles move to 4-3 in the first seven games of this West Coast swing. They keep pace with the teams chasing them, as both Toronto and New York have determined to never lose again. Both of those teams won on Thursday as well, so the O's lead over both of those teams holds steady at three games. The O's have allowed the fewest runs (405) of any team in the division.

That's not a joke or a typo. One reason this team is winning is pitching. MASN's Steve Melewski noted that over the last 40 games, the Orioles have a starting rotation ERA of 3.12. They've recorded a 25-15 record in that time. When your starters pitch well, you win most of your games. What a concept.

Things won't get any easier for this good Orioles team, as they'll be facing another tough pitcher in Felix Hernandez on Friday night. Kevin Gausman has it in him to be a tough pitcher as well, so if he can rebound from a harsh outing, there could be quite the pitcher's duel on tap. The game begins at 10:05 Eastern, and, blessedly, is the final scheduled 10 o'clock game of the season for the team.