Mariners fall short in comeback bid

Mariners fall short in comeback bid

Mariners fall short in comeback bid
SEATTLE -- Turns out, it's hard to be perfect. Orioles rookie Wei-Yin Chen managed it into the seventh inning Tuesday night. And Mariners reliever Charlie Furbush had been pretty darn close for seven weeks.

But after Chen lost a perfect game after retiring 19 straight batters, the Mariners saw a terrific comeback instead turn into a 5-4 loss when Furbush gave up his first run in 22 2/3 innings on a ninth-inning home run by Baltimore second baseman Robert Andino.

Furbush, pitching the final frame because closer Tom Wilhelmsen had thrown three straight games for Seattle, got touched up for the first time since May 15 as his string of 16 scoreless appearances ended in dramatic fashion.

"It happens," Furbush said in the quiet Mariners clubhouse.

But is hasn't happened often to him or a Seattle bullpen that has been sparkling in recent weeks.

"Charlie's been fantastic," said Seattle manager Eric Wedge. "He left a fastball up there in that situation and the guy was all in and got to it. But Charlie's been one of our best down there all year. We had [Tom] Wilhelmsen down tonight, he wasn't available, so we felt like he was the best guy to go to at that time."

That the game even came to that point was surprising, as the night began in far-less promising fashion for a Mariners team that fell to 35-48 with the loss.

Seattle didn't reach base against Chen until one out in the seventh when Casper Wells ripped a solo home run. But the Mariners rallied for three more runs in the eighth off Chen and reliever Pedro Strop, sending the game into the ninth tied at 4.

Chen toyed with the possibility of handing Seattle its second perfect-game defeat of the season, having already endured that fate at the hands of the White Sox's Philip Humber on April 21. But Wells finally ended that notion by driving a full-count fastball into the left-field stands after Chen had retired the first 19 batters.

"I'm looking fastball in that situation," said Wells. "I know he's got to throw a strike. It's a perfect game and I'm pretty much sitting dead red and I got a fastball I could handle."

When Michael Saunders ripped a one-out double in the eighth, Orioles skipper Buck Showalter pulled Chen and the Mariners closed the gap with an RBI single by Justin Smoak off Strop. Pinch-hitter John Jaso delivered again for Seattle with a run-scoring single to make it 4-3.

The hard-throwing Strop got Ichiro to ground into a fielder's choice for the second out, but then hit Wells in the right wrist to load the bases and forced in the tying run by walking Kyle Seager.

Felix Hernandez wound up with a no-decision on a night he gave up four runs on five singles in the sixth inning and saw his recent run of dominance come to an end just two days after being named to his third American League All-Star team.

With the King's Court rooting section cheering every strike and counting every strikeout, Hernandez rolled through five shutout innings before getting into trouble. After throwing 128 pitches in a 1-0 shutout over Boston his last time out, Hernandez got the hook at 90 pitches with still only one out in the sixth.

Wedge said he was being careful with Hernandez coming off that high pitch count, but "The King" insisted that wasn't a factor.

"I was feeling pretty good," Hernandez said. "In the sixth, they just started swinging at the first pitch. Those were good pitches. They weren't in the middle, they were in the corners. They took a pretty good approach and started hitting the ball up the middle and they got me in that inning."

A two-run single by Matt Wieters -- the fifth hit in six batters -- was the final straw as Hernandez was lifted with a 4-0 deficit.

In all, Hernandez gave up eight hits and four runs in 5 1/3 innings, his record remaining 6-5 with a 3.26 ERA with one start remaining this Sunday in Oakland before he heads to his third All-Star Game.

"He's one of the best pitchers in baseball," said Showalter. "The guys put together a lot of good at-bats against him. We knew he was coming off a 128-pitch outing, a complete game. He's got such good arm speed on all his pitches, it's tough to really string something together against him. You've got to really grind at-bats, you may get one or two shots in the ballgame, and we took advantage of it."

Hernandez struck out eight Orioles -- all in the first four innings -- and now has 31 strikeouts in his past 21 1/3 innings.

Chen, a 26-year-old Taiwan native who pitched in Japan the past five years, came in with a 7-4 record and 3.73 ERA, but had never given up less than six hits in any of his 15 starts. He recorded his season high for strikeouts with nine and didn't walk a batter.

Oliver Perez pitched 2 1/3 innings of scoreless relief for Seattle after replacing Hernandez and Josh Kinney finished off the eighth in his Mariners debut after being promoted from Triple-A Tacoma on Sunday.

Then came Furbush, who saw the third-longest scoreless streak ever by a Mariners reliever finally come to an end.

"I guess it was fun while it lasted," said the lefty. "Hopefully I can start another one."

Greg Johns is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.