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Starting pitching, home runs help Orioles to 3-2 win over Mariners

Chris Davis realized he was probably pushing the limits of the Orioles' strict no-beards facial hair policy, but he didn't want to completely shave before the club opened their three-game series against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on Monday night.

So instead, he formulated a compromise, removing the beard but keeping a prominent mustache above his upper lip that made manager Buck Showalter – among many -- do a double take upon first glance during batting practice.

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A different look brought a similar result for the hot-hitting Davis, who drove in two runs – including his 30th homer of the season – in the Orioles' 3-2 victory over the Mariners in front of an announced crowd of 20,839 at Safeco Field.

Since 2012, the Orioles are 18-8 against Seattle and have won 10 of 14 games at Safeco Field over that span.

Orioles left-hander Wei-Yin Chen held the Mariners to one run over 7 1/3 innings and closer Zach Britton maneuvered through a wild ninth inning to record his 28th save in 29 opportunities.

The Orioles (57-54) can clinch a winning record on their nine-game road trip with a victory in either of their final two games in Seattle. They also gained ground in both the American League wild-card race, moving to two games back of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for the second wild-card spot, and drawing within 4 ½ games of the AL East-leading New York Yankees.

Both Davis and center fielder Adam Jones homered for the Orioles, who opened their three-game series in Seattle by rebounding from a tough, 11-inning walk-off loss in Anaheim on Sunday.

"It's huge," Davis said. "I think yesterday was a tough game to lose. Anytime you want to go into extra innings, you want to win the game, especially in the middle of a road trip like this one. You know you're going get three quality teams that are going to give you a fight every night so it was a good game for us to win. I thought Wei-Yin was awesome for us tonight. I looked up and it's the eighth inning and he's still out there. You applaud him for his performance and you've just got to keep grinding."

Showalter said Davis' mustache was the subject of countless jokes in the Orioles dugout. "He might not have it [Tuesday] with as much grief as he took," Showalter said. But after continuing his recent tear at the plate Monday, the Orioles slugger said his lip fur is here to stay.

"I was just looking for something to loosen everybody up and get us going," Davis said. "So it looks like this is going to be around for a while. I'm not going to shave it now. And it looks great, too, so you know, I've got that going for me."

Davis, who drove in go-ahead run in the fourth inning with a one-out double, hit a solo blast to center field in the sixth off Mariners reliever Mayckol Guaipe on a first-pitch, 96-mph fastball. The homer was Davis' 11th in his past 19 games. He has 29 RBIs over that span and five homers and 12 RBIs in nine games in August.

His 30th homer of the season Monday made him the fifth player in franchise history to hit at least 30 homers in three separate seasons, joining Eddie Murray (five), Rafael Palmeiro (four), Boog Powell (four) and Frank Robinson (three).

Jones opened the scoring three batters into the game with his 18th homer of the season, hitting a 1-1 pitch from Mariners left-hander Vidal Nuno over the center field fence.

Jones then doubled to left with one out in the fourth, and Davis singled to right. Jones scored from second, testing former Orioles slugger Nelson Cruz's throwing arm, and slid into home plate just before catcher Mike Zunino made a sweeping tag attempt.

Chen held the Mariners to just three hits and retired 13 straight Seattle hitters before issuing a one-out walk in the eighth to Mark Trumbo to end his outing.

"I thought it was good timing," Showalter said. "I know he wasn't happy with his last couple of outings. He had all his stuff as deep in the game as he's had in a while. … He got stronger as the game went on. I thought the late life was there, and the depth to his breaking ball. That's about as much depth as he's had on his breaking ball."

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The only run the Mariners (52-61) scored off Chen was on Franklin Gutierrez's solo homer to lead off the second inning. Chen allowed just one baserunner after that – Cruz's leadoff single in the fourth.

"In the later part [of the game] I felt much better than the earlier part, and also my teammates were going pretty well," Chen said through interpreter Louis Chao. "They scored runs and played great defense behind me. That's one of the reasons it helped me get into the zone."

Chen (6-6), who failed to record an out beyond the fifth inning in each of his past two starts, posted his longest outing since going eight innings on July 12 against the Washington Nationals.

"I think it was the mental aspect of the game because in my previous starts I was thinking about my mechanics and whether this part or that part went wrong or not and tonight I was just focused on the hitter I was pitching to," Chen said. "I wasn't overthinking and I think it worked pretty well."

In 27 career starts against AL West teams, Chen is 15-5 with a 2.75 ERA and 18 quality starts. He is 3-3 with a 3.04 ERA in seven career starts against the Mariners.

Though he needed a season-high 36 pitches to do it, Britton earned the save by recording the final five outs of the game. The Mariners brought the tying run to the plate twice in the ninth when J.J. Hardy booted a grounder hit to short by Cruz – Hardy's second error of the season and first since May 12 – but Britton got Robinson Cano to hit into a 6-4-3 double play.

"When the pitch count gets up, strike one is even more important," Britton said. "I was starting to get a little tired. I hadn't thrown that many pitches all year, so that was my focus. Strike one, keep the sinker down and mix in the breaking ball if I need it and try to put a ball in play and get out of it."

Seattle, down to their last out, rallied when Gutierrez ended a 10-pitch at bat with a double to center, then moved to third on a wild pitch by Britton. Britton struck out Austin Jackson on a sinker, but a passed ball charged to catcher Caleb Joseph allowed Gutierrez to score.

"It rarely happens with Caleb," Britton said. "He's one of the better guys back there. I just tried to continue to throw strikes and kind of pick him up."

Britton regrouped, striking out Jesus Montero on three pitches to end the game.

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