July 3, 2012 in Sports

Andino’s homer in ninth lifts O’s over Seattle

Seattle Times
Associated Press photo

Seattle’s Casper Wells broke up Baltimore’s perfect game with a seventh-inning homer.
(Full-size photo)

SEATTLE – Two and a half months after Philip Humber achieved immortality at Safeco Field, and a mere four days after Aaron Cook raised Eric Wedge’s ire with an 81-pitch shutout at the same venue, Wei-Yin Chen took the Seattle mound on Tuesday.

Something magical and maddening almost happened for Chen. Almost. And then something totally unforeseen happened for the Mariners, who charged hard after what would have been their most rousing victory of the season.

But in the end, it was the Orioles who rallied last, and best, to pull out a 5-4 victory at Safeco Field.

After the Mariners scored three in the eighth to tie the game, Robert Andino delivered a two-out homer in the top of the ninth off left-hander Charlie Furbush to provide the margin of victory. Andino’s homer to left — his first since May 7, and fourth of the year — came on a 2-2 pitch and ended Furbush’s scoreless streak at 22-2/3 innings.

The Orioles’ All-Star closer, Jim Johnson, worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his 24th save, and the Mariners’ stirring rally had an anti-climactic ending

On a night when it looked early like Felix Hernandez again had the electric stuff to flirt with a masterpiece, it was Chen, a rookie left-hander, who flirted with history. And then the Orioles who flirted with disaster.

Chen retired the first 19 Mariners’ hitters, but with one out in the seventh — eight outs from perfection — Casper Wells jumped all over a 3-2 pitch and crushed it over the wall in left field.

Chen exited after Michael Saunders’ double with one out in the eighth, which barely eluded a diving effort by center fielder Adam Jones. Pedro Strop took over, and promptly gave up an RBI single to Justin Smoak, and another single to Dustin Ackley. Pinch-hitter John Jaso singled to right to score Smoak, making him 4 for 10 with three runs batted in as a pinch-hitter this year.

Ichiro grounded into a force for the second out, leaving runners on the corners. But Strop hit Casper Wells to load the bases, and then walked Kyle Seager to force in the tying run. Reliever Darren O’Day got Jesus Montero on a fly out to end the inning.

No team has ever been victimized twice in the same season by a perfect game. The closest was the Tampa Bay Rays, who had Mark Buehrle of the White Sox throw one against them on July 23, 2009, and Dallas Braden of the A’s repeated the feat against them less than one year later on May 9, 2010.

The Mariners were on the other side of a Safeco no-hitter on June 8 when six pitchers held the Dodgers hitless.

There was little to foreshadow the would-be gem by Chen, 26, a native of Taiwan who pitched the past four seasons for the Chunichi Dragons in Japan. The Orioles signed him to a three-year, $11.18-million contract in the offseason, and he has been a strong addition to their rotation, bringing a 7-4 record and 3.73 earned-run average into the game.

Still, in 15 previous starts, he had never gone more than 7-2/3 innings or allowed fewer than four hits. In his last start, the Indians scored six runs off Chen in six innings in a 7-2 Indians’ victory.

The Mariners were kept off-balance most of the night by Chen, who struck out nine and didn’t walk any in 7-1/3 innings.

Hernandez roared through five shutout innings, stretching his scoreless streak to 20 innings. He struck out eight in that span, much to the frenzied delight of the blue-clad denizens of the King’s Court. But it all came unraveled in the sixth, when the Orioles greeted him with four straight singles that netted two runs.

After a ground out, Matt Wieters delivered a two-run single, and Mariners manager Eric Wedge pulled Hernandez, who will have one more start on Sunday before his third All-Star appearance in Kansas City. In 5-1/3 innings, Hernandez gave up eight hits.

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