SEATTLE -- The Orioles' 10-game West Coast road trip was a major test whether they could hold their own while playing against three playoff-caliber teams across the country.
The trip was characterized by closely contested games — seven were decided by two runs or fewer — in which strong pitching and clutch hitting was often the difference.
And on Sunday afternoon, as the sun set on what might be their most grueling stretch away from home this season, the Orioles finished the road trip with a 3-2 victory in 10 innings over the Seattle Mariners in front of an announced 26,523 at Safeco Field.
“Is there such a thing as a man crush on your team?” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “I was pretty proud of them today. There were a lot of chances to give in there.”
With the win, the Orioles (58-46) ended their trip with a 6-4 record, winning five of their last seven and claiming series wins against the Los Angeles Angels and the Mariners. They have won 17 of their last 25 road games.
The Orioles, who head back to the East Coast with a three-game lead over the Toronto Blue Jays in the American League East, are also 17-10 against the AL West. Their .629 winning percentage against the AL West is the highest by any AL club against that division.
“You are talking about [three] of the best teams in baseball on this side,” said third baseman Manny Machado, who had two RBIs, including the game-winner on a sacrifice fly to center field in the 10th. “All three teams have been playing well. It was a test, it was a test to see how good of a team we have, and I think we came out in a good, positive way.
“It’s a different second half, and we are trying to put ourselves in a good position to run away with this American League East and continue playing some good baseball.”
The Orioles have won 11 of 14 games in extra innings this season, including six straight and two here in Seattle this series.
“Wasn’t pretty, but a ‘W’ is always pretty, no matter how it looks,” said center fielder Adam Jones, who scored the winning run after opening the 10th with a double. “We have confidence every day we show up to the ballpark. I think all 25 of us wake up with the same mindset, [that] we are going to bust somebody’s tail today. Is it always going to happen? Probably not. But we have that same mindset.”
The Orioles picked up right-handed reliever Darren O’Day, who gave up a game-tying solo homer to Mariners catcher Mike Zunino with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning. O’Day hadn’t allowed a run in 14 straight appearances and hadn’t given up a home run since May 22.
Runs were scarce throughout the series, but the Orioles grinded out the winning run in the 10th off Seattle reliever Yoervis Medina.
After Jones opened the inning with a leadoff double down the left-field line, Medina issued back-to-back walks to Nelson Cruz and Chris Davis to load the bases.
One pitch after swinging wildly through a 96-mph fastball from Medina (4-2), Machado — playing in his second game back after missing four games because of lower back spasms — then hit an 0-2 pitch to the warning track in center field, well deep enough to score Jones from third base.
“That was a ‘stick your nose out there and get it done,’” Showalter said of producing a run in the 10th. “You’ve got to fight your want-to so much there because it can get in your way of trying to be selective. Chris drew a big walk there, so did Nellie. … Keep passing the baton.”
Closer Zach Britton retired the Mariners (54-51) in order in the bottom of the 10th for his 20th save in 23 opportunities. He has converted five straight save chances since he allowed a walk-off homer in Oakland in the first game of the road trip.
Left-hander T.J. McFarland (4-2) retired the Mariners in the bottom of the ninth to earn the win.
In the top part of the inning, the Orioles took the lead on Machado’s two-out, bases-loaded infield single.
Machado hit a grounder deep into the hole at shortstop that rookie Chris Taylor backhanded. But Taylor's throw pulled second baseman Robinson Cano off the bag, allowing Jones to score from third base with the go-ahead run.
The Orioles had opportunities against Seattle starter Roenis Elias early, but they only scored one run against him in five innings — on No. 9 hitter Jonathan Schoop’s RBI single in the third.
Schoop’s single was the last of three straight Orioles hits to open the inning from the bottom third of the lineup. The club had the potential to have a big inning against Elias with the top of the lineup coming up, but it couldn’t produce any more offense.
Despite allowing eight hits over six innings, Orioles right-hander Miguel Gonzalez recorded his fourth straight quality start, allowing just one run while striking out one batter and walking two.
“I felt like every inning there was some runners on,” Gonzalez said. “Just tried to minimize whenever I wasn’t doing well and making pitches when I needed to. Our defense was great tonight, and even our offense battled.”
Gonzalez has allowed two or fewer runs in each of his past four starts, recording a 1.82 ERA over that span. He gave the Orioles their sixth quality start in the past seven games. Orioles starters compiled a 2.94 ERA on the road trip.
The Mariners’ only run against Gonzalez came in the second inning on Taylor’s RBI double down the left-field line.
The Orioles defense made a pair of momentum-changing plays to open innings. Kyle Seager hit a ball off the right-field wall to lead off the second inning, but Markakis played it perfectly off the wall and threw Seager out at second base. And Steve Pearce made a diving grab down the left-field line on Logan Morrison’s opposite-field fly ball to begin the fourth.
In the seventh inning, left-hander Brian Matusz worked his way through the middle of the Mariners order to escaped a two-on, one-out jam. After allowing a one-out single to Dustin Ackley and walking Cano, Matusz induced a weak first-pitch popup from Kendrys Morales and then struck out Seager on three pitches.
Despite walking a batter in the ninth, McFarland — who pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings Saturday on just 15 pitches — struck out two hittes in the ninth, and the Mariners had no answer for Britton in the 10th as he struck out the side on just 12 pitches.
“That’s nothing new,” Machado said of McFarland and Britton. “We are used to that. That’s what they’ve been doing all year. I think with the bullpen we have now, when we get a one-run lead, we are very confident they are good enough to hold that. They’ve been doing a great job.
“Today it was unfortunate, O’Day was down, but it’s something that’s going to happen. It’s part of the game. No one is perfect. … I think our bullpen is great, and once we give them that lead, we got a pretty good chance of holding them.”
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