Blanco's home run shocks Chen, Orioles

Blanco's home run shocks Chen, Orioles
August 4, 2013, 6:15 pm
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Showalter: Loss "frustrating for everybody"

(Associated Press)

BALTIMORE –- The Orioles ended an eventful homestand with a thud. They looked forward to a productive nine games against Boston, Houston and Seattle.

After five losses in those nine games, the Orioles will begin an eight-game road trip to San Diego, San Francisco and Arizona on Tuesday night far from first place in the AL East.

The Orioles’ 3-2 loss to the Seattle Mariners before 30,759 at Oriole Park on Sunday leaves them a season-high 6 ½ games out of first place.

For now, the Red Sox and the Rays aren’t a concern.

The mood among the Orioles remains positive.

“Nothing sour to me,” Adam Jones said. “There’s no [moaning] and crying about it. That’s how this clubhouse handles it.”

The Astros and Mariners are both far from contention, and the Orioles hoped to win both series. Instead they split the six games, and lost the last two with Seattle.

For a moment, Wei-Yin Chen seemed just a pitch away from his fifth straight decision.

After Danny Valencia hit a two-run home run in the sixth inning, Chen had a one-run lead.

With one out, he walked Michael Saunders, then picked him off and followed by walking Brendan Ryan.

As Troy Patton warmed up in the bullpen, Chen got two quick strikes on Henry Blanco. Then, the 41-year-old backup catcher, playing for his 11th major league team, hit an 0-2 pitch into the left field stands, and Chen had his first loss since May 1.

“That’s the spot I wanted to attack and I threw the ball right on the spot and he still swings the bat really well and he hit a home run off me,” Chen said through his interpreter.

Since his last loss, also against Seattle, Chen (6-4) had four wins, two no decisions and nearly two months off because of a strained left oblique. In none of those starts has he allowed more than three runs.

His three runs on five hits in seven innings was a strong effort.

“He pitched outstanding. Deserved to win. All of us feel like that was an outing worth getting a W,” manager Buck Showalter said.

“There were a lot of great things he did to give us a chance, more times than not, to win that game.”

The Orioles (61-51) are 8-8 since the All-Star break. Since then they’ve picked up Francisco Rodriguez and Bud Norris. They face tough competition for the division from not only the Red Sox and Rays, but a difficult chase for the Wild Card from one of those teams, Cleveland and Texas.

If the Orioles are to make the playoffs, they’ll have to do better with their scoring chances. They were 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position and left eight men on in the first six innings, all against Joe Saunders.

Saunders (10-10) who won last year’s Wild Card game with the Orioles, is now a sterling 7-0 against Baltimore.

“We hit the ball hard today. We created a lot of opportunities and we hit the ball hard right at them with men in scoring position. We created opportunities. Look at the positive of it,” Jones said.

In the second, Michael Morse and Raul Ibanez had consecutive doubles, and Seattle (52-59) led 1-0.

Chen retired eight straight Mariners until Ibanez doubled in the fourth, and then the left-hander and Justin Smoak engaged in an excruciating 16-pitch at-bat. Smoak fouled off pitch after pitch until he hit a soft single to left.

There was no damage done because Chen retired Michael Saunders, who had three home runs in the first two games of the series on a two pitches when he grounded to first, ending the inning.

In the fifth, Chen demonstrated his fielding skills by stabbing a line drive hit right at his midsection by Blanco, and then a moment later picked up Brad Miller’s bunt and deftly threw it underhanded to first for the out.

The Orioles had runners in the first five innings against Saunders, but couldn’t score. They left two on in the second, third and fifth.

In the sixth, they finally scored. Steve Pearce led off with a walk and Valencia, recalled earlier in the day from Norfolk, hit a two-run home run to center, and the Orioles led 2-1.

Valencia had broken an 0-for-23 streak in his previous at-bat with a double.

In Saunders’ six innings, he allowed two runs on eight hits, walking two and striking out two.

Yoervis Medina pitched two perfect innings in relief of Saunders, striking out four. Danny Farquhar worked the ninth for his second save in as many games.

“We were one swing and one run away from being in a different situation,” Showalter said.