After most of the games on Thursday, three of the five teams in the AL East were pretty excited. The New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays had pulled within 2.5 games in the division while the Tampa Bay Rays were within 7.0. They did know that the Orioles would be playing the Mariners at 10:05 PM, but they were counting on a loss to make the race even closer. Instead, the O’s found a way to win and get back that always-important half-game.
Baltimore Orioles 4, Seattle Mariners 0
It certainly could have been worse for Wei-Yin Chen in his previous six starts entering Thursday night, but the Orioles were hoping for better. In that stretch, Chen managed just a 5.29 ERA, allowing at least one home run in each start and working more than 5 innings just twice. Against Seattle, however, Chen finally came together to give his team the lift it needed. Chen went 8 shutout innings allowing just 5 hits and 1 walk while striking out 3. He was excellent at keeping the ball on the ground, forcing a 12-5 groundout to flyout ratio, and the Mariners never had more than one hit against hit in any inning. The crazy thing, though, was that it almost was not enough.
Opposing Chen was one of the AL’s best pitchers, Hisashi Iwakuma. For six of his seven innings, Iwakuma lived up to the billing, allowing no runs on just two hits. In the third inning, though, for a four-batter stretch, he simply lost it and Baltimore took advantage. They receive three consecutive singles from Ryan Flaherty, Caleb Joseph, and Nick Markakis to score one run before Delmon Young quickly made it a 4-0 game with a three-run blast. Three of those four Orioles batters were extremely aggressive against Iwakuma, with Flaherty and Young attacking the first pitch they saw while Joseph swung at the second. But you know that Iwakuma was not going well because he allowed a hit on each of his four primary pitches: his four-seamer, two-seamer, splitter, and slider. It was a disastrous stretch for the Mariners star right-hander, and while the Mariners did their best to make up for it, the damage was done and they could not. The Mariners may have outplayed the Orioles for eight of the nine innings on Thursday night, but this is a nine inning game and every inning counts. For the Orioles, it was big for them to steal this game against Iwakuma in this first game of their four-game series with the Mariners, and suddenly three out of four in the series or at least a split seems much more likely.
Here are the rest of the games in the AL East from yesterday. In any event, it was a huge win for Wei-Yin Chen and the Orioles, and here are the updated standings followed by the schedule for tonight.
1. Baltimore (56-45) —
2. New York (53-48) 3.0 GB
3. Toronto (54-49) 3.0 GB
4. Tampa Bay (49-53) 7.5 GB
5. Boston (47-55) 9.5 GB
Certainly of note: the Yankees and Blue Jays are now tied for the second Wild Card spot in the American League.
One look at the probable pitchers tells you that it’s going to be ace night in the AL East, and it will be fascinating to see who comes out on top.