Andino saves O's after Chen flirts with perfection

Andino saves O's after Chen flirts with perfection

Andino saves O's after Chen flirts with perfection
SEATTLE -- On the same day Baltimore placed second baseman Brian Roberts on the disabled list, Robert Andino -- fresh off a critical defensive faux pas in Monday's loss -- proved why he isn't such a bad understudy.

With the score tied at 4 and the O's facing another devastating loss -- this one stemming from a three-run meltdown in the eighth -- Andino delivered a two-out, ninth-inning solo homer off red-hot Mariners reliever Charlie Furbush to give Baltimore a 5-4 edge and series-evening win.

"I had to make up for yesterday," said Andino, who stood at his locker and shouldered all the blame barely 24 hours prior after dropping a potential rally-squashing putout that led to a three-run Mariners seventh. "So, I guess [Tuesday's performance] worked out in my favor."

Andino's clutch hitting -- which snapped Furbursh's scoreless streak at 22 2/3 innings -- saved Orioles starter Wei-Yin Chen's superb effort and gave a lagging O's squad a badly-needed victory. Tuesday's win is the Orioles' fourth in their last 14 games and puts them back in sole possession of second place in an American League East race that is growing closer seemingly every game.

"I think everyone was real happy for him tonight," manager Buck Showalter said of Andino, the Orioles No. 9 hitter who entered Tuesday hitting .083 (2-for-24) in his last eight games. "It means a lot to him.

"I think from a maturity standpoint, he understands the scrutiny you are under at this level. He never gives in as far as effort and wanting to get something done."

Andino -- who is expected to take over second-base duties again in Roberts' absence -- sent Furbush's 2-2 two-seamer into the left-field stands to erase an uncharacteristically poor outing from reliever Pedro Strop that cost Chen the win and threatened to take the game's outcome with it.

"We've been struggling a little bit," Strop said of an Orioles' club that is trying to keep pace in the division after a torrid first two and a half months. "Knowing that we've been struggling a bit and you come into the game and you're winning by three runs and you blew it and then you see one of your teammates ring that up, it's good."

On the heels of a tough loss Monday night, in which starter Jason Hammel was handed the defeat despite a solid outing, Chen tossed 7 1/3 innings for his eighth quality start of the season. And he did it in impressive fashion, coming out firing and setting a new career-high in strikeouts before the fifth inning had ended. By the time Chen did exit -- to a standing ovation from the Safeco Field crowd -- he had fanned nine and given Baltimore its longest pitching performance since Hammel went eight innings on June 22.

"This was probably the first time since I came to the States that I really felt good about my slider," Chen, who took a perfect game into the seventh inning, said through interpreter Tim Lin. "And once I established my first-pitch strike, I could easily execute my offspeed pitches."

"He surprised me," Mariners ace Felix Hernandez said of Chen, who faced Seattle for the first time in his career and outdueled the All-Star. "He was in command the whole game. He was sneaky a little bit with his fastball and mixed in his breaking ball. He was pretty good. He was unbelievable."

Chen fell one out shy of his own career high in the 97-pitch outing and watched as Casper Wells sent a one-out full-count pitch into the left-field stands, taking with it any hopes of a perfect game, no-hitter or shutout bid in one fateful swing. He responded by retiring the next three batters and exited after a one-out double to turn the ball over to Strop, who entered Tuesday with a 1.25 ERA that was fourth-best in the AL.

But Strop couldn't preserve Chen's gem, giving up two runs -- and tilting Chen's line in allowing the inherited runner to score -- over 1/3 of an inning. Strop -- who had allowed two earned runs in his previous 26 games -- was wild and ineffective and surrendered a trio of singles to put the Mariners within a run before he could record an out.

"Pedro's been doing a great job for us this year," Showalter said. "Some of it has been on the edge. That's one of those things where he hasn't gone in three days. Usually after two days, his command suffers a little bit."

Speedy Seattle leadoff man Ichiro Suzuki beat out a potential double-play ball to keep the inning alive and -- after Wells was hit by a pitch -- Strop walked in the tying run on five pitches. Showalter promptly yanked Strop in favor of Darren O'Day, who got a flyout to end the inning and keep the score knotted at 4.

The Orioles took an early lead and forced a quick hook for Hernandez with a four-run sixth. After seven strikeouts in the first five innings, the O's broke through and scored a pair of runs on four straight singles, with RBIs from Chris Davis and Adam Jones. Matt Wieters followed one out later with a two-run single to end Hernandez's day. Rookie Xavier Avery, who was activated prior to the game, collected a career-high three hits, going 3-for-5 with a double and run scored.

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.