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BAL@TOR: Saunders shuts out Blue Jays over 6 1/3

If the Orioles are to complete their improbable playoff run this season, winning against sub-.500 teams like Seattle will be of utmost importance.

That's easier said than done, though, as the Mariners will send ace Felix Hernandez to the mound, trying to avoid the sweep against Baltimore.

Heading into play on Wednesday, the O's are even with the Yankees -- who host a doubleheader against Toronto -- in the AL East. They're also three games up on the Angels in the race for the No. 2 Wild Card spot.

The two clubs could use big performances out of their starting pitchers, following Tuesday's 18-inning affair, which the Orioles won, 4-2.

Hernandez has struggled a bit in September after being virtually unhittable in August. He's lost three straight, and his ERA has risen from 2.43 to 2.92 during that time.

But the former Cy Young winner didn't seem too concerned with those results, saying simply, "it happens." His plan to correct the struggles: "Just going out and being me."

Opposing Hernandez will be Orioles left-hander Joe Saunders, who is 2-2 with a 4.30 ERA since being traded from Arizona.

He pitched well in a 3-2 loss to Oakland on Friday night, allowing three runs on six hits in six innings. But he gave up a crucial two-run homer in the fourth inning that gave him the loss.

"I thought it was a good pitch but he put a good swing on it," Saunders said of Yoenis Cespedes' home run. "Hopefully that doesn't beat you, but it wound up being the difference."

Orioles: Matusz's new role
• The Orioles moved left-hander Brian Matusz to the bullpen when they called him up from Triple-A in August, a role he's enjoying as he grows accustomed to it.

"I'd say the biggest change is being ready every day," Matusz said. "As a starter, you throw one day and then get four days off. As a reliever, you've got to be ready every day. You have something to prepare for every day."

Matusz has posted a 1.80 ERA in 12 relief appearances, and he has stranded all 10 of his inherited runners.

"The view isn't as nice from the 'pen as it is from the dugout," Matusz kidded. "But you get used to it."

Mariners: Wells returns
• Outfielder Casper Wells returned to the lineup Tuesday in his first game since he missed three with a stiff neck.

Before Tuesday's game, Wells said his neck felt fine, and he was able to take a full batting practice.

"Obviously, I want to be out there playing," Wells said. "It's kind of unfortunate that it happened before the game, but I had other things in mind for that day, so got to take every day for what it is. I'm able to get out there and play right now."

Worth noting
• Orioles hitters actually have fared pretty well against Hernandez. Adam Jones (7-for-22), Matt Wieters (5-for-13) and Endy Chavez (6-for-10) have all had success vs. the Mariners ace.

• The Orioles have gone eight games in a row without committing an error -- their longest streak of the season. Their last blunder came on the first play of their Sept. 9 game against the Yankees, when Manny Machado committed a throwing error.

• Seattle holds a 40-25 edge over Baltimore in games played at Safeco Field.

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