Mariners-Orioles Preview

Superb pitching has pushed the Baltimore Orioles atop the AL East, and that trend may not change against the Seattle Mariners.

Miguel Gonzalez looks to continue his own strong stretch on the mound as he faces the sputtering Mariners again Saturday night.

Baltimore (61-47) has won eight of 11 thanks largely to a 1.87 ERA, a significant improvement from the team’s 3.69 season mark.

That recent success includes a 1.57 ERA while taking four of five from Seattle (56-53), which is batting .211 and averaging 2.2 runs during a 3-7 stretch.

Wei-Yin Chen was the latest to shut down the Mariners in a 2-1 win in the opener of this three-game set Friday. He became the third straight Baltimore starter to last at least seven innings as the Orioles moved 2 1/2 games ahead of second-place Toronto.

"If you get seven innings out of your starter, you’re going to win your share of games," manager Buck Showalter said. "Shortens up a lot of things in the bullpen and really allows you to put people in situations that they prosper in."

Gonzalez (5-5, 3.77 ERA) has allowed no more than two runs in four straight starts and reached the eighth inning in three of them. He was 1-1 with a 6.14 ERA over his three prior outings after a stint on the disabled list due to a strained right oblique.

The right-hander allowed one run and scattered eight hits in six innings of a 3-2 win in 10 at Seattle on Sunday in his first career start against the Mariners.

"I felt like every inning, there (were) some runners on," Gonzalez told MLB’s official website. "Just tried to minimize whenever I wasn’t doing well and making pitches when I needed to."

Manny Machado went 3 for 4 on Friday and is batting .333 with five RBIs in his last five games. The third baseman is a career .333 hitter versus the Mariners, and he’s 7 for 16 (.438) with two doubles and one homer in four home matchups.

Machado and the Orioles will get their first look at rookie James Paxton (2-0, 2.25), who returns from a left lat strain to make his first start for Seattle since a 5-3 win over the Los Angeles Angels on April 8.

"It’s been a long road, but I’m just really excited to be back up here," Paxton said. "It’s funny. I’m always nervous and excited before I pitch. That’s just the way it is. And I love that feeling. I feel like being nervous makes me better, makes me focus more."

The left-hander allowed nine runs and three homers in 13 innings over four rehabilitation starts, but he’s 5-0 with a 1.75 ERA in six starts over two seasons with Seattle.

Robinson Cano has hit .384 in his last 18 games after going 2 for 3 on Friday. He owns a .363 career average at Baltimore, but he’s 2 for 21 versus Gonzalez.

Austin Jackson was 0 for 3 in his Mariners debut, a day after being acquired from Detroit in the David Price deal. Jackson is a career .156 hitter at Baltimore and is hitless in four games there this year.

Seattle is 5-37 when trailing after seven innings, second-worst among AL teams.