O’s game blog: Orioles playing .667 ball this month (O’s win 4-0)

The Orioles begin a four-game series in Seattle tonight. They are 3-3 so far on this west coast road trip.

They hope to continue playing well this month. July has been the O’s best month of the year by winning percentage:

.500 in March/April at 12-12
.500 in May at 15-15
.571 in June at 16-12
.667 in July at 12-6

The O’s strong record this month has been built more on pitching than offense. The team ERA is 3.42. On offense the Orioles are averaging 4.4 runs per game on a .246 team average, a .298 OBP and a .699 OPS.

While Manny Machado is batting .400 this month, Nick Markakis is hitting .270, Adam Jones .261, J.J. Hardy .224, Jonathan Schoop .189 and Chris Davis .177.

The O’s catchers have also struggled some lately on offense as Caleb Joseph and Nick Hundley have combined for one hit in their last 23 at-bats.

On the mound tonight, Wei-Yin Chen (10-3, 4.21 ERA) makes his 20th start. Despite having 10 wins, Chen is allowing more hits (10.2 per nine innings) and more homers (1.5 per nine) than in his two previous seasons. But he has offset that somewhat with a career-low 1.6 walks per nine innings.

Chen is 3-0 with an ERA of 4.32 his last three starts and the Orioles are 12-7 when he starts.

Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma (8-4, 2.95 ERA) starts for Seattle. In four starts this month he is 3-0 with a 1.57 ERA and has not allowed a walk with 28 strikeouts over 28 2/3.

The 33-year-old right-hander gives up a .285 batting average to lefty batters and a .200 average to right-handed hitters. In 64 career starts, he is 30-14 with a 2.73 ERA.

With Felix Hernandez (11-2, 2.02 ERA), the American League leader in ERA facing the Orioles tomorrow night, the Orioles certainly have a challenge at the start of this series with the Mariners.

With both New York and Toronto winning earlier today the O’s lead the AL East by 2 1/2 games heading into tonight’s series opener.

Replay review confirms out at the plate: The Orioles cut down a run at the plate in the last of the first. Leadoff hitter James Jones walked, stole second and advanced to third on a groundout.

Then Robinson Cano hit a grounder in front of the mound. Chen gloved it and shoveled the ball home right from the glove as Caleb Joseph tagged Jones out on a very close play.

But a crew chief review was called for, and three minutes and 45 seconds later, the play stood as called on the field. The review apparently had more to do with the new home plate collision rule as they checked to see if Joseph had blocked the plate too soon.

The Orioles and Mariners are scoreless through two innings with Chen at 31 pitches and Iwakuma at 28.

Young hits three-run homer: That rally escalated quickly. The Orioles struck for four quick runs and a 4-0 lead in the third.

Ryan Flaherty and Caleb Joseph led off with singles and a Markakis single scored Flaherty for a 1-0 lead. Then Delmon Young hit a three-run homer to left on the next pitch for the 4-0 lead. Young connected on a slider that Iwakuma left up.

Young, making his first start since July 6, is 2-for-2 tonight. He is now 4-for-7 with two career homers against Iwakuma. The Mariners right-handed gave up five runs in 28 2/3 innings in his first four starts this month and the O’s got four off him in the third tonight.

Chen strong through six: Chen and the Orioles took a 4-0 lead to the seventh tonight. Through six innings Chen has allowed just three singles with one walk and one strikeout. In search of his 11th win, Chen has thrown just 81 pitches and needed just 23 over the fifth and sixth innings. He began tonight 0-2 with an ERA of 4.56 in four career starts against the Mariners.

Final: Darren O’Day came on and pitched a perfect ninth inning. Chen threw eight scoreless innings as the Orioles won 4-0. Chen improves to 11-3 and the Orioles go to 56-45 and maintain a three-game lead a top the AL East over New York and Toronto.

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