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Series Preview: Mariners (34-40) vs. Orioles (34-40)

The Mariners return home for a three-game series against the Orioles.

Baltimore Orioles v Chicago White Sox Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images

Who would have seen the Mariners and perpetually-rebuilding Orioles coming into this series with the same record? Not I, said the little red Kate (although not as red as Phil Nevin and the entire Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Disneyland California—sorry, let’s make that the Disgraced Former California Angels, which is how I’ll be referring to them from now on). Anyway, credit to the Orioles, they’ve been on a little hot streak lately and might be catching the Mariners while they’re down several important players with Ty France on the IL and other players potentially catching some suspensions. Put succinctly: this is not at all the cakewalk of a series it looked like on the schedule even just a week ago. Help us, Drew Ellis, you’re our only hope.

At a Glance

Orioles Mariners
Orioles Mariners
Game 1 Monday, June 27 | 7:10 pm
RHP Tyler Wells RHP George Kirby
38% 62%
Game 2 Tuesday, June 28 | 7:10 pm
RHP Dean Kremer LHP Robbie Ray
35% 65%
Game 3 Wednesday, June 29 | 1:10 pm
RHP Austin Voth RHP Chris Flexen
42% 58%
*Game odds courtesy of FanGraphs

Team Overview

Overview Orioles Mariners Edge
Overview Orioles Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 92 (12th in AL) 108 (6th in AL) Mariners
Fielding (OAA) -4 (13th) 4 (6th) Mariners
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 113 (12th) 111 (11th) Mariners
Bullpen (FIP-) 85 (4th) 103 (10th) Orioles

The Orioles head into Seattle with a little bit of wind in their sails, having most recently come just one game short of sweeping the White Sox in a four-game series where they outscored the preseason postseason faves 17-7. Before that they took a series from AL East divisional foes and perennial contenders the Rays, winning some tightly contested games in the kind of one-run fashion that would make the 2021 Mariners proud. Those new fences at Camden Yards are certainly helping out the Orioles’ long-beleaguered pitching staff, but they’re getting it done on the road, too; they are 7-5 in road games coming into this series over June. If the Orioles stole the 2021 Mariners’ one-run magic, kindly return it. Feel free to drop it off at any Rolling Roof concessions stand, no questions asked.

Orioles Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Cedric Mullins CF L 318 0.298 94 3.2
Trey Mancini DH R 285 0.340 126 -1.4
Anthony Santander RF S 281 0.260 117 -1.1
Austin Hays LF R 288 0.322 132 0.7
Ryan Mountcastle 1B R 263 0.324 119 -0.6
Adley Rutschman C S 116 0.268 98 1.3
Rougned Odor 2B L 215 0.230 79 0.1
Tyler Nevin 3B R 138 0.226 64 -1.2
Jorge Mateo SS R 243 0.282 63 1.9

As you might have garnered, it’s really the Orioles’ pitching staff that’s keeping things tight in ballgames, which is a wild sentence to have typed but there it is. The Baltimore staff has accrued 7.2 fWAR, which is 11th-best in baseball and third-best in the AL. Conversely, the Bird Bats have lagged significantly behind, down in the bottom third of the pack offensively with the likes of the Royals and Oakland. Austin Hays has been the team’s best hitter by about every available metric; you might remember him torturing Mariners pitching in Baltimore last time around. Ryan Mountcastle has been slugging the daylights out of the ball but can be a feast-or-famine type player, with his power propping up a below-market walk rate and above-market strikeout rate. Trey Mancini has also provided some solid on-base ability.

After those three, however (maybe four if you count Santander, with above-average plate discipline but below-average hit), things drop off sharply. Cedric Mullins has not been able to repeat his thrilling performance from last season, Adley Rutschman continues to walk along the Cal Raleigh V.1.0 path (not a bad path, but a slow one), and the rest of the lineup is made up of the filler players Baltimore has been running out for the past several seasons. If the Mariners pitching staff can continue their excellent June (first in baseball in ERA), and navigate this lineup long enough for whoever Scott Servais is forced to write on his lineup card to scrape across a couple runs, maybe the Mariners can recapture some of their own one-run magic.

Probable Pitchers

Updated Stuff+ Explainer

Washington Nationals v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

RHP Tyler Wells

64 2/3 15.3% 6.1% 8.5% 36.8% 3.34 4.28
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 39.7% 93.7 2439 128 76 112
Changeup 19.1% 86.8 2108 92 104 127
Curveball 15.1% 77.9 2610 75 67 110
Slider 24.9% 87.2 2546 134 62 119

Tyler Wells was a Rule 5 selection last year and spent the entire season in the Orioles bullpen. By the end of the season, he was getting high-leverage looks and converted four saves in September. A starter throughout his minor league career, Tommy John surgery derailed his ascent through the Twins organization, wiping out all of his 2019 season. After the canceled minor league season in 2020, Baltimore took a chance on him and understandably treated him with some caution. He’s back in a starting role this year and has made 14 solid starts this year. His 6-foot-8 frame presents some deception and his riding, high-spin fastball gives his arsenal a solid foundation. For whatever reason, he’s had trouble racking up strikeouts; after running a 29% strikeout rate as a reliever in 2021, it’s dropped to 15.3% this year.

RHP Dean Kremer

21 16.3% 5.8% 3.3% 37.9% 1.71 3.26
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 45.3% 93.7 2211 120 96 92
Cutter 29.2% 87.5 2482 125 133 111
Changeup 16.1% 83.9 1576
Curveball 8.7% 76.4 2683

Dean Kremer struggled through his first full major league season last year, limping to a 7.55 ERA with an equally ugly 6.99 FIP. He was up-and-down between the majors and minors throughout the season, ultimately making 13 starts for Baltimore. Sidelined to start this year with a spring oblique injury, he just recently came off the IL this month and has looked a lot more settled in the big leagues. In four starts, he’s allowed just five runs and has looked to get his command issues under control after running double digit walk rates in his previous two stints in the majors.

RHP Austin Voth

27 2/3 21.1% 7.5% 15.6% 41.1% 7.81 4.53
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 42.9% 93.9 2362 129 117 112
Cutter 28.0% 90.1 2409 105 97 112
Curveball 29.1% 77.8 2970 120 82 105

The Orioles claimed Austin Voth from the Nationals after he posted an ERA over 10 through his first 19 appearances out of the bullpen for Washington. He’s exactly the kind of waiver wire arm that’s readily available and teams like Baltimore and Washington churn through throughout the season. A small velocity bump in shorter outings didn’t really help him find much success last year and it certainly hasn’t helped this season either. The underlying characteristics of his pitches are all fairly impressive, but for whatever reason, he’s been unable to deploy them effectively.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Astros 45-27 0.625 -- W-L-W-W-L
Rangers 34-37 0.479 10.5 W-W-L-W-L
Angels 35-40 0.467 11.5 L-W-L-L-W
Mariners 34-40 0.459 12.0 W-W-W-W-L
Athletics 25-49 0.338 21.0 L-L-L-W-W

The worst thing about losing to the Angels Disgraced Former California Angels yesterday–okay, one of the worst things–was it dropped the Mariners back below them in the standings, into fourth place. However, there’s relatively little daylight between Texas, Anaheim, and Seattle, so things could change quickly. Texas is currently on top of the pile by winning percentage (.479) but the Mariners have the best record over the last ten games, going 6-4 vs. everyone else’s 5-5 (and let’s face it, it should have been 7-3). The Astros swaggered around Yankee Stadium like they owned the joint this weekend, although as Yankee fans are undoubtedly quick to point out, New York’s winning percentage (.726) is a whole hundred points higher than Houston’s.