BALTIMORE -- Oh how things can change in the course of a week in the wild and wacky American League Wild Card chase.The Orioles, who were teetering on the outskirts of the race in mid-August, swept their second straight series on Wednesday with an 8-7 win over the Mariners and
BALTIMORE -- Oh how things can change in the course of a week in the wild and wacky American League Wild Card chase.
The Orioles, who were teetering on the outskirts of the race in mid-August, swept their second straight series on Wednesday with an 8-7 win over the Mariners and now find themselves fast on the heels of the Twins for the second AL Wild Card spot after seven straight victories.
It took four home runs on Wednesday -- along with a four-hit day from catcher Welington Castillo -- for the Orioles to vanquish a Seattle club headed suddenly in the opposite direction with five straight setbacks.
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Jonathan Schoop singled in the go-ahead run in the bottom of the eighth off reliever Marc Rzepczynski to score pinch-runner Caleb Joseph as the Orioles rallied first from a 6-2 deficit and then a 7-7 tie for their first series sweep of Seattle since 2012.
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"At this time, we've been able to dial up what was needed on a given day. We're not always going to be perfect in the pitching department," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "But [Seattle is] a hungry club getting ready to go home and have an off-day. It's really, really hard, one, to win a Major League baseball game, and it's really hard to win three games in a row off the same team. So, that was a challenge today, but our guys were ready."
The Orioles are only 1 1/2 games behind the Twins for the second AL Wild Card spot.
"To be honest, I don't follow much, but today I see the standings and you know, we're right there," Schoop said. "So, we just got to keep winning and we just got to go out there and compete and don't worry about the stats too much. Just try to go out there and win and win and we're going to be there."
The Mariners dropped their fifth in a row, ending a 12-game East Coast road trip at 5-7 and falling to 66-68 overall to put them four games behind Minnesota.
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Castillo hit a two-run homer in the fourth and the Orioles also got solo shots from Trey Mancini, Craig Gentry and Schoop, all off Seattle starter Ariel Miranda, who has allowed a Major League-leading 35 home runs on the season.
"Everything is working out now," Castillo said. "The pitchers are pitching better. We're hitting better. We're playing defense better. Everything [is] starting to get better for us. That's the kind of team [that] I've seen playing before."
Seattle right-fielder Mitch Haniger snapped an 0-for-19 streak by going 3-for-4 with two doubles and a game-tying solo homer in the top of the eighth off Brad Brach.
"This was definitely a long trip, but we have to play better than we did here and in New York," Haniger said. "It'll be good to get back to Seattle and play in front of our home fans again and get back on track."
Neither starter fared well. Orioles right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez lasted just 2 2/3 innings, giving up six hits and six runs, while Miranda allowed eight hits and six runs in 4 1/3 innings for Seattle.
"We knew coming in it would be tough matchup," Mariners manager Scott Servais said of the southpaw Miranda against Baltimore's right-handed power at Camden Yards. "That's why I was excited when we put the big number up early. He had pretty good stuff -- six strikeouts and didn't walk anybody. But the fastballs he left up, they were on him. And as the game went on, second and third time around, they were on the offspeed a little better, too. Not a great day."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
It is a game of inches … : The Mariners put up six runs in the third inning off Jimenez on a trio of two-run hits by Nelson Cruz, Haniger and Mike Zunino. And they got big breaks on two of them. Cruz tied the game at 2-2 when he ripped a ground ball up the middle that deflected off the second-base bag, caroming over the head of shortstop Timothy Beckham and allowing an extra run to score. After Haniger's two-run double put runners on second and third, Zunino parachuted a popup into shallow center that fell just between three converging Orioles defenders for a two-run single and a 6-2 lead.
"Cruz had the good fortune of hitting the bag and Zunino dropped in the two-run single," Servais said. "So it kind of felt momentum was coming in our favor. But they've been hot. They've been swinging the bats well, and we couldn't slow them down."
Mariners not feeling Wel: Castillo has terrorized Seattle since the Mariners dealt him to the D-backs midway through 2015 in a trade for Mark Trumbo after he'd played just six games in a Seattle uniform. Since then, Castillo has gone 12-for-21 with five home runs in six games against the Mariners, and his two-run homer in the fourth started Baltimore's comeback bid. Gentry followed with a solo shot off Miranda that cut the lead to 6-5, the 11th time this year the Orioles have homered back-to-back.
"[I've changed] mostly nothing [with my approach at the plate]," Castillo said. "I just go [up] there with my plan and try looking for my pitch and then … don't go away from my plan." More >
"It's part of the game. You make some bad pitches and guys take advantage of it." -- Miranda, on giving up the most homers in the Majors so far this year
"I think we kind of know it's, 'OK, what do we need to do tonight to win?' It's been that way every night, though. But there have been different things that have been the difference-maker, so there's a lot of things that are contributing, whether it's defense or good baserunning play or good relay, throw out somebody stealing, a really well-pitched game. What's really tough, you come through the emotion of winning three games at Fenway and then come back home and there's another challenge of a team that you're trying to catch ahead of you. But it's that time of year. You can see the finish line a little bit now." -- Showalter, on what he likes about his team during its seven-game winning streak
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Miranda, making his first start against the Orioles team that traded him to Seattle a year ago, is the only Mariners starter to not miss a turn yet this season. He took a no-decision and remains 8-6 on the year, but is just 1-2 with a 6.84 ERA over his last 10 starts.
With one out and a runner on second in the bottom of the eighth, Beckham lined out sharply to Taylor Motter at short, and Motter quickly threw to second to try to double up Joseph. The call on the field was that Joseph was out, but after a 38-second manager's challenge by the Orioles, the call was overturned and Joseph remained at second base and extended the inning for the O's to score their go-ahead run.
"In the eighth inning, where you're not losing a whole lot, we were probably going to challenge it if it was 50-50," Showalter said. "John [Russell] and our people up there, the only time they've been wrong is when we think that New York might be wrong, for the most part. John was 100 percent sure it was going to be overturned. It was a pretty short look."
Mariners:Yovani Gallardo (5-10, 5.78 ERA) is scheduled to start Friday's 7:10 p.m. PT series opener against A's lefty Sean Manaea (9-8, 4.55 ERA) as Seattle returns to Safeco Field to begin the season's final month. Gallardo is 2-0 with a 2.95 ERA in four outings, including three starts, against Oakland this season.
Orioles: Baltimore will start a four-game series against the Blue Jays at Camden Yards on Thursday at 7:05 p.m. ET with Jeremy Hellickson on the mound. Hellickson (8-7, 4.88 ERA) is looking for his fourth quality start since being acquired from the Phillies at the end of July. After having two rough outings, the right-hander picked up the win last time out against Boston allowing two runs on four hits through seven innings.
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Mandy Bell is a reporter for MLB.com based in Baltimore and covered the Orioles on Wednesday.
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.