SEATTLE – After winning three of four in Oakland to begin their season-longest 11-game road trip, the Orioles headed to Seattle looking to capture another series and, perhaps, guarantee a winning West Coast jaunt without yet stepping foot in Southern California.
They even caught a major break when Seattle's all-word ace Felix Hernandez was not scheduled to pitch in this series.
But just when you think you have baseball figured out, a guy like Aaron Harang can muck things up.
Seattle's veteran right-hander, who was fighting for his job, threw six solid innings and the Mariners roughed up Orioles lefty Wei-Yin Chen for an 8-3 blowout in the rubber match of the three-game series.
The Orioles (16-12) looked lackluster on offense and defense – center fielder Adam Jones again dropped a fly ball that ultimately led to a run – as they head to Los Angeles for a four-game series against the Angels.
"We got beat," Jones said. "They beat us. They capitalized some mistakes that I made personally, and that's what a good team does."
Based on recent pitching history, this one should have been a mismatch.
Chen entered Wednesday with a 2.53 ERA on the season and a scoreless innings streak of 13 1/3 and counting. He hadn't given up more than three runs in any of his five starts in 2013.
Harang was 0-3 with an 11.37 ERA, had allowed runs in nine of his 13 innings as a Mariner and was one bad outing from losing his rotation spot and maybe his job.
So, naturally, Harang cruised through six innings, and Chen lasted only four, tying his shortest stint as a major leaguer (July 8, 2012 at Los Angeles).
The Taiwanese lefty gave up a run in the first on Jason Bay's two-out RBI double to left, snapping his scoreless streak at 14 innings. He gave up two more runs in the second, which began when Jesus Montero hit a deep fly to center that Jones tracked down, but he again had the ball bounce off his glove just before he hit the outfield wall.
It was Jones' second dropped ball in a week and fifth ball that he has misplayed this season – an uncharacteristic defensive malaise for the two-time Gold Glove winner. The slow-footed Montero was awarded a triple and then scored on a RBI single by Michael Saunders. The Mariners added another run in the second before Michael Morse's two-run homer in the fourth staked the Mariners to a 5-0 lead.
"It's part of the game. You got to play offense, you got to play defense," Jones said. "Defense has always been a part that just comes. And there's some things that I'm not doing well in the field and it's frustrating. But you think it's going to stop me from playing hard and stop the way I'm playing? It's not. Just got to pretty much clean it up. ...
"I didn't help [Chen] today which is frustrating because Chen goes out there and gives us everything he has every night. Tonight I failed him and I failed the team. But hey, there's tomorrow and I'm going to show up ready to play."
Chen (2-3) was tagged for a season-high five earned runs on eight hits and three walks in four innings. He had given up just four runs in his past 20 innings over three games. His last four starts had been quality ones before getting beat up Wednesday night.
"From outstanding [last time out in Oakland] to the worst tonight," Chen said through interpreter Tim Lin. "I tried to attack the zone today. I tried to throw first-pitch strikes. But I tried to think too much. I tried to attack both sides of the plate, and it didn't work at all. And that cost me today."
Meanwhile, Harang (1-3) retired 12 of the first 13 batters he faced. He didn't allow a run until the sixth on a RBI single by Nick Markakis and a RBI double by Jones.
The offensive bright spot for the Orioles was young third baseman Manny Machado, who doubled to ignite the sixth inning rally and homered in the eighth, his third of the season. Machado extended his hitting streak to 10 games, the longest for an Oriole this year.
It's also the longest hitting streak in franchise history for a player younger than 21.
In an otherwise forgettable night for the Orioles, UMBC product Zach Clark made his big league debut after eight seasons in the minors.
The 29-year-old right-hander pitched 1 2/3 innings of relief, allowing three runs on three hits and two walks. The big blow was a two-run double by Kendrys Morales.
Clark did pick up his first major league strikeout, fanning Montero in the fifth.
"It was a little disappointing. I wish I could have done better," Clark said. "But it was still cool to be out there and have that opportunity. It was everything, just amped up. I don't even remember throwing the pitches in the [bullpen]. But getting out there was cool."