BALTIMORE — Wei-Yin Chen has emerged as arguably the Orioles’ most consistent pitcher since his return from the disabled list in July. And on Sunday, the left-hander was at it again, recording his fifth straight quality start in the series finale vs. the Seattle Mariners.
But a three-batter stretch in the seventh inning would prove to be Baltimore’s undoing in a 3-2 loss before an announced 30,759 on a breezy and beautiful afternoon at Camden Yards.
First, Chen walked center fielder Michael Saunders. Chen picked off Saunders during the next at-bat, but he issued a second straight walk to shortstop Brendan Ryan. Then, with the count 0-2 against the No. 9 hitter in the Mariners’ lineup, catcher Henry Blanco drove a 91-mph fastball into the left-field seats for a two-run home run.
It was enough for the Mariners (52-59) to take the rubber match of a three-game series and saddle the Orioles (61-51) with a 4-5 record in their nine-game homestand. The club begins a nine-game West Coast road trip Tuesday in San Diego.
Left-hander Joe Saunders (10-10), who won the Orioles’ first playoff game in 15 years last October, was just good enough for Seattle. He teetered on the edge of disaster for six innings, allowing only a two-run home run to designated hitter Danny Valencia in the sixth inning.
The Orioles had the leadoff hitter reach in five of Saunders’s six innings, but they would strand eight runners on base and go 0 for 11 with runners in scoring position.
The Mariners used back-to-back doubles by Michael Morse and Raul Ibanez to plate the game’s first run in the second. A sacrifice fly moved Ibanez to third, but Chen (6-4) escaped the inning by striking out Michael Saunders and getting a running catch from Nick Markakis on a flyball hit by Ryan.
Valencia gave the Orioles the lead briefly in the sixth with his fifth home run of the year. Valencia, who arrived in Baltimore at 4 a.m. Sunday after his call-up from Class AAA Norfolk and snapped an 0-for-23 stretch with a fourth inning double, hit his fifth home run of the year on a 1-0 pitch after Steve Pearce led off the inning with a walk.