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BAL@SEA: Wedge on team's game-ending caught stealing

SEATTLE -- Felix Hernandez did his best to give the Mariners' weary bullpen a break Wednesday night with eight strong innings, but the Orioles continued their extra-inning magic as Adam Jones hit a two-run blast in the 11th for a 3-1 victory at Safeco Field.

Baltimore has won 15 straight extra-inning games, including an 18-inning marathon the night before. This time the Orioles ended it earlier, with Jones launching his 30th home run of the season, a shot to left-center off reliever Josh Kinney.

Seattle responded with leadoff singles by Kyle Seager and Jesus Montero off closer Jim Johnson in the bottom of the 11th, but Justin Smoak hit into a double play and Michael Saunders was caught stealing for the final out after reaching on a walk.

Saunders was trying to get into scoring position with pinch-hitter John Jaso at the plate and Seager already at third.

"In that situation I thought it was extremely important I got to second base," said Saunders, who successfully stole second an inning earlier but was left stranded. "A guy like Johnson doesn't give it up too often, so when we got an opportunity I felt I had to be aggressive. Unfortunately I got thrown out. I honestly feel if I had an opportunity to do it again, I'd go for it again."

Manager Eric Wedge had no issue with Saunders' decision, saying the real problem was his team's inability to deliver earlier in the game as it wound up 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position a night after going 0-for-17.

"I'm thrilled with Michael Saunders this year," Wedge said. "He's been aggressive, he's stolen that bag for us more than once. He's trying to make something happen. We're not doing anything offensively. You got to trust him out there. The trust has to be a part of the fact that he has a pretty good feel out there and he's not taking off right there unless he feels like he can make it.

"That's not the ballgame. The ballgame, again, is the offensive side of it. The opportunities, the opportunities the people up there need to be doing better. That's the end of it."

Orioles catcher Taylor Teagarden did express surprise at Saunders' decision, given the circumstances.

"I didn't think he was going to run, provided that Jaso was the hitter in that situation," Teagarden said. "He's a good hitter, he's got a little pop. I thought they were going to take their chances with Jaso hitting. When he took off I was little surprised. He caught me off guard a little bit, but [shortstop] J.J. [Hardy] was there, stuck it and was able to hold on."

The win left the Orioles a half-game behind the Yankees in the American League East at 85-64. It was Baltimore's eighth straight victory over Seattle to finish with an 8-1 season advantage following the three-game sweep at Safeco.

The Mariners lost their fourth straight and are 70-80 with 12 games remaining.

Seattle had a chance to win it in the 10th after loading the bases with two out, but Franklin Gutierrez popped out to short, as the Mariners continued struggling to come up with the key hit.

"Baltimore's played us tough all year long," said Wedge. "We could have won last night and tonight, but we're one hit away both nights. Somebody has to step up and get it done. It's later in the year and we're playing teams that are all fighting for something.

"Bottom line, when you're not doing anything offensively, it just tightens the whole game up. It's tougher on the pitchers, it's tougher on you defensively, it's tougher on you from a mindset standpoint. That's the one area of our club that has to be better."

Closer Tom Wilhelmsen worked a perfect ninth and 10th after replacing Hernandez, his second straight night of two-inning duty. Kinney, pitching for the fourth time in six days, fell to 0-3 with the loss.

"Felix looked awesome tonight, Tom did a great job," said Kinney. "I felt pretty good out there, too, actually, for all the work I've had. Just one pitch. I threw one bad pitch that went where I really didn't want it to go and it cost us. It cost us the ballgame and it cost me two runs and that's what I've got to eat tonight."

Hernandez allowed just one run and six hits in eight innings with one walk and eight strikeouts, bouncing back from a rough trio of September starts when he'd gone 0-3 with a 9.00 ERA.

"Definitely better," said Hernandez. "It was just something mechanical. I was following through at home plate tonight and executing pitches. My last couple games, nothing was working and I was leaving pitches over the middle. Today my fastball was working and that makes my secondary pitches better."

But Hernandez wound up with a no-decision as Seattle's offense couldn't do much with Baltimore southpaw Joe Saunders, who matched Hernandez with just one run on five hits in eight innings. The Mariners' one run came on Gutierrez's home run in the fourth.

The Mariners needed Hernandez in this one after they'd used eight pitchers in an 18-inning marathon loss to the Orioles the night before and he certainly did his part as he gave up just a single run in the fourth.

Hernandez figures to have two starts remaining against the Angels -- one on the road next week and one in the season-ending homestand -- as he remains 13-8 with the no-decision while his ERA lowered to 2.85 ERA.

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