By Larry LaRue The News Tribune
SEATTLE — The Seattle Mariners dodged a perfect game, survived a stumble by their All-Star ace and rallied from four runs down in the eighth inning Tuesday night — and still lost to the Baltimore Orioles.
After scrambling back to tie, the Mariners went to left-hander Charlie Furbush, who hadn’t allowed a run since mid-May.
Two outs into the ninth inning, Baltimore’s Robert Andino homered deep into the Orioles bullpen, and the Mariners had another of their patented close-game losses, this one 5-4.
“It happens,” Furbush said afterward. “I threw him a two-seamer that stayed flat. It was supposed to sink and didn’t. I didn’t get it done.”
From the outset, this game was a pitchers delight, a cold night at Safeco Field where many of the 16,270 fans wore heavy coats — and hitters wanted nothing do with fastballs in on their hands.
In five innings, All-Star Felix Hernandez struck out eight Orioles, didn’t allow a run and was out-pitched by 26-year-old left-hander Wei-Yin Chen, who hadn’t allowed a base runner over the same span.
“It was a pretty emotional game, a lot of back and forth,” manager Eric Wedge said. “Felix pitched well until the sixth inning and then his pitches flattened out. He threw well …”
And Chen threw better, because Chen was perfect after six innings.
A team that had been patient all night against Hernandez suddenly changed tactics in the sixth inning, not waiting on the count to be in their favor — and they banged out five hits.
“They started swinging at the first pitch and staying up the middle,” Hernandez said. “They weren’t bad pitches, either. I left one over the middle to Chris Davis, but Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, those were good pitches .
“They just got me, and that was the ball game, right there.”
A scoreless tie became a 4-0 Baltimore lead, and Wedge went to his bullpen while watching Chen take a perfect game into the seventh inning.
“It’s right up there for everyone to see,” Wedge said. “You don’t want something like that going deep into the game, because with each and every out it gets that much tougher.
“Casper Wells got us off the hook.”
One out into the seventh inning, after Chen had retired 19 consecutive batters, Wells ended that string with a long home run to left field, his third of the season.
An inning later, the Mariners broke through again.
A one-out double for Michael Saunders, an RBI single by Justin Smoak, a single by Dustin Ackley and then — pinch-hitting — a John Jaso RBI single.
With two outs, the Mariners loaded the bases when Wells was hit by a pitch, and Kyle Seager drew the walk to force in the tying run.
Against submariner Darren O’Day, Jesus Montero struck out.
Still, the crowd cheered the rally and, afterward, so did Wedge.
“That was a lot of fight we showed, and we came back to tie it,” Wedge said. “You see positves. You see toughness. We just couldn’t push ahead and they came back and beat us.
“Furbush has been fantastic for us, and tonight we went to him because (Tom) Wilhelmsen was down. He’d pitched in three straight games.”
Furbush entered with a streak of 222⁄3 consecutive scoreless innings, the third largest such streak by a reliever in franchise history. He wouldn’t second-guess the pitch, just the execution.
“It was the pitch I wanted, and I was committed to it,” Furbush said. “It just didn’t move like I wanted.”
It was the fourth loss on this home stand by one run, and while the Mariners can be pleased they’re playing close games, they’d be even more pleased to win more of them.
Hernandez won one in his last start, a 1-0 complete-game victory that came on the final swing of the night against Boston — after he’d thrown 128 pitches.
“We wanted to keep him between 90-100 pitches tonight,” Wedge said. “When we let him go last time, we knew we’d have to monitor him tonight. He still felt good, his pitches just flattened out a bit that last inning.”
Hernandez wouldn’t use it as an excuse.
“I felt good, I felt strong, they just hit me that inning,” he said.