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SEA@SD: Pineda fans nine over seven shutout frames

Both the Orioles and Mariners will look for answers to specific questions when they meet in Wednesday's series finale.

The Orioles welcome back Brian Matusz, who has been sidelined since the end of Spring Training with a left intercostal muscle strain. Squaring off against Matusz will be impressive rookie Michael Pineda, who takes the ball for the second time against Baltimore -- the second club to get a second look at him in his young career. He has lost to Texas twice.

How Matusz looks in his return may settle some concern about how Buck Showalter will manage a suddenly disrupted staff. For Matusz, who was on the disabled list since March 30, his presence is needed to stabilize the Orioles' rotation after the club sent Brad Bergesen and Chris Tillman back to Triple-A this week. Despite the turnover, the left-hander is simply focused on building off his last rehab start.

"I was able to be loose and make adjustments during the game and really take control. And that's something I felt like I didn't have a grasp on yet," Matusz said. "I didn't feel like I was ready. And I was able to do that last night. I feel good and I feel healthy and I'm excited to get on a routine now."

Matusz's return has been a fluid situation. Given that Wednesday's start will be his first, building up his arm strength was just as important as rehabbing his injury.

"We wanted to take all the right steps to get me back here healthy and as fast as I could. I think we did all the right things. I'm built up," Matusz said. "I feel ready to go. It was the perfect plan and I'm happy with how it went, with Buck and [pitching coach Mark Connor]. It wasn't easy, it definitely wasn't easy. But I'm happy that I'm strong [and] now I'm built up."

Conversely, Pineda has rarely shown adverse effects to anything during his rookie campaign. In addition to boasting a 6-2 record and a 2.42 ERA (eight earned runs in 32 1/3 innings), the right-hander has allowed just three earned runs in his past 19 frames -- all against the Yankees in his last start. Wednesday's test should provide a different wrinkle for Pineda, and manager Eric Wedge acknowledges that the task may be different.

"I think the challenges are really never-ending when it comes to a first-year player, and even beyond that -- particularly with a starting pitcher, because that's where it begins for your ballclub," Wedge said. "You can't sit here and predict what those challenges are going to be, though the obvious ones -- second time around."

Pineda lasted only five innings against New York, the first time in 10 starts he was unable to get through the sixth inning. He also walked five Yankees after issuing just two free passes in his previous four starts.

Orioles: Where's the power?
The Orioles' bats haven't been totally quiet this month, but the thunder has gone silent. The Orioles have notched just six extra-base hits during the first five games of their road trip. Only two of the O's 17 walks have turned into runs, while they have hit just two home runs as a team in that span. That isn't to say Baltimore isn't hitting as a team. Adam Jones hit .342 in May, Vladimir Guerrero's monthly average stood at .308 and Nick Markakis (.286) and Matt Wieters (.277) chipped in with solid months.

Mariners: Ichiro's opportunity to get on track
Ichiro Suzuki may be looking forward to June. The Mariners' right fielder hit just .209 in May after batting .328 in April. Facing Baltimore may be the right elixir.

Ichiro is a career .363 hitter against the Orioles, which is the highest batting average against Baltimore by any active player. That figure is the third-highest mark by an active player against any given team, behind Vladimir Guerrero (.394 vs. Texas) and Albert Pujols (.372 vs. Pittsburgh). Ichiro has hit safely in 21 of 23 games against the O's at Safeco Field. One of his two hitless games came on Tuesday, however, in an 0-for-3 effort.

Worth noting
With Matusz's start on Wednesday, the Mariners will become the only team in baseball to use the same five starting pitchers all season.

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