Morse, Morales lead Mariners past Orioles, 8-3

Scott Johnson, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

SEATTLE -- Having lost out on sluggers Josh Hamilton and Justin Upton in the winter, the Seattle Mariners are starting to find enough offense from their Plan B additions.
Michael Morse and Kendrys Morales combined for five RBI and three runs Wednesday, leading the Mariners to an 8-3 victory over the Baltimore Orioles.
Seattle (13-17) has won two consecutive series after losing or splitting its first seven.
Baltimore (16-12) had won four series in a row before the Mariners took two of three games this week.
Morse hit his third home run in four games, his ninth of the season, to give the Mariners a 5-0 lead in the fourth inning. Morales added three hits and three RBI, while Michael Saunders also had a three-hit game.
"I feel like our guys here have taken significant steps," manager Eric Wedge said of Seattle's offense, which had 32 total hits in the series. "What you're seeing now is more the norm of what our guys are capable of."
Mariners starter Aaron Harang (1-3) did his part to make sure the early lead held up in his finest performance since the Mariners acquired him from Colorado three weeks ago. The veteran right-hander became the second Mariners starter in three nights to hold down the Baltimore bats. He threw five innings of one-hit baseball before the Orioles (16-12) finally scored on him in the sixth.
"I was hoping we would do a little better job off him," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "He was due, with his track record, (to pitch) better than he has here. You hate that it comes off you. ... We didn't mount a whole lot there until the sixth."
Harang bounced back from losses in first three starts, due in part to some pitching adjustments he made in his motion after watching video with Mariners pitching coach Carl Willis.
"We figured out my front side was flattening out a little bit, and ultimately I was elevating pitches," Harang said. "When I've got something minor that's off, it can throw off everything."
Harang allowed just two runs and four hits in six innings Wednesday. Combined with Monday starter Joe Saunders, Seattle's two new veteran pitchers allowed eight hits and four runs over 15 innings against the Orioles.
Baltimore starter Wei-Yin Chen (2-3) lasted just four innings Wednesday, giving up eight hits and five runs. The big blow came when Morse, who had three home runs during 107 games with the Mariners as an up-and-coming shortstop from 2005 to 2008, took Chen deep in the fourth.
Morse seems to have his confidence back after enduring a mini-slump while recovering from a fractured bone in his hand. The injury kept Morse out of three games, and then he hit .146 in his first 10 games back before settling into a groove this week.
Morse has now hit in six consecutive games, with a .368 batting average, three home runs and four RBI.
"He's definitely further down the road than he has been," Wedge said.
Baltimore scored two runs off Harang in the top of the sixth to pull within 5-2, but Morales hit a two-run double and scored on a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the inning to extend the lead to 8-2.
The Mariners finished with 11 hits, and they've reached double digits in each of the three games against Baltimore. Over its past nine games, Seattle is batting .299 with 13 home runs -- a marked improvement after hitting .218 with 17 homers in the first 21 games.
Chen gave up eight hits Wednesday, despite striking out six in four innings.
"He was pretty quick with his fastball; you see the strikeouts," Showalter said. "He made some mistakes with his off-speed pitch. ... Stuff-wise, he was in pretty good shape. He made a mistake with an off-speed pitch (to Seattle's Jason Bay, who doubled in a run in the first) and got hurt."
Baltimore's Manny Machado, a 20-year-old third baseman, had a double and an eighth-inning home run to extend his hitting streak to 10 games. He became the youngest Oriole to hit in 10 consecutive games, and he raised his batting average to .311.
Mariners closer Tom Wilhelmsen threw a 1-2-3 ninth inning to extend his scoreless-innings streak to 11, but he did not earn a save because Seattle was leading by five runs when he came into the game.
Seattle's improving lineup of bats made sure Wilhelmsen didn't have to sweat it out.
"The offense is getting better," Morales said after a 3-for-5 performance that raised his batting average to .267. "We're collecting more and more every day."
NOTES: The Mariners optioned RHP Blake Beavan to Triple-A Tacoma and recalled LHP Lucas Luetge. Beavan had an 8.44 ERA in his last two appearances out of the bullpen, and the Mariners are hoping to use him as a starter at Triple-A in an effort to get him back on course in that role. ... The Orioles won 16 games in April, matching the franchise's highest victory total in that month. Baltimore won 16 April games four previous times, most recently in 2008. ... Roberto Alomar was announced Wednesday as this year's inductee to the Orioles' Hall of Fame. ... After initially listing RHP Hisashi Iwakuma as Sunday's starter, the Mariners announced Wednesday that Iwakuma will stay in his usual spot and start Saturday's game at Toronto. Iwakuma has been battling a blister on his right middle finger, but he'll already get six days between starts because the Mariners have a travel day Thursday. LHP Joe Saunders is now listed as Sunday's starter.

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