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Series Preview: Mariners (62-52) vs. Orioles (71-44)

The best team in the American League is in town for Félix weekend.

Houston Astros v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

This might be the biggest series of the season, and it has nothing to do with the baseball games being played. It’s Félix Hernández Mariners Hall of Fame weekend, baby! M’s Hall of Fame inductions are always a treat, and this time we honor the King himself. Friday is Fireworks night, Saturday is the Induction (sold out), and Sunday is Bobblehead day. It feels right to head into Félix weekend high on pitching, with Logan Gilbert’s gem Tuesday and Emerson Hancock’s debut Wednesday top of mind. The Mariners have won seven in a row and six series in a row, but momentum alone won’t be enough to vanquish the league-leading Baltimore Orioles (more on the Birds below). Next week the M’s head to the middle of the country for a two week, three team road trip– let’s send them off with jubilation.

At a Glance

Orioles Mariners
Orioles Mariners
Game 1 Friday, August 11 | 7:10 pm
RHP Kyle Gibson RHP Luis Castillo
38% 62%
Game 2 Saturday, August 12 | 6:40 pm
LHP Cole Irvin RHP George Kirby
37% 63%
Game 3 Sunday, August 13 | 1:10 pm
RHP Kyle Bradish RHP Bryce Miller
43% 57%
*Game odds courtesy of FanGraphs

Team Overview

Overview Orioles Mariners Edge
Overview Orioles Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 105 (5th in AL) 103 (7th in AL) Orioles
Fielding (OAA) -8 (12th) 12 (3rd) Mariners
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 105 (10th) 92 (3rd) Mariners
Bullpen (FIP-) 83 (1st) 87 (2nd) Orioles

As mentioned above, the Orioles sit atop the AL East, with the best record in the AL at 71-44. For a club projected to be below .500 prior to Opening Day, it’s been a wild ride. The team is young, and their window seems to be opening earlier than expected. The bats are nearly all hitting above league average, rookie Grayson Rodriguez is back in the starting rotation, and closer Félix Bautista continues to dazzle with an FIP of 1.83 and 31 saves. Baltimore is 6-3 in August so far, having won a series against the Blue Jays, swept the Mets, and lost two of three to the Astros. One of those losses came on a rare blown save for Bautista, who gave up a grand slam to Kyle Tucker. The single win against Houston allowed the Orioles to add to their post-WWII MLB record 76 series without getting swept. Given their record, Baltimore is now in Magic Number Countdown territory, with 96.6% playoff odds according to Fangraphs.

The last time the Mariners and Orioles faced off, in late June, the Orioles won two of three but were outscored 19-10. Outfielder Anthony Santander went 6-for-12 against the M’s pitching, and will be one to watch this weekend.

The negative Orioles news of late has centered around a PR kerfuffle in which the org suspended popular broadcaster Kevin Brown for … sharing facts on air about how much better the Orioles are this year than in previous years, including information about their recent struggles at Tropicana Field? For more coverage of that mess, read this article and this analysis from our sister site, Camden Chat.

Orioles Lineup

Player Position Bats PA K% BB% ISO wRC+
Player Position Bats PA K% BB% ISO wRC+
Adley Rutschman C S 490 14.9% 13.5% 0.164 126
Gunnar Henderson SS L 415 26.7% 10.8% 0.226 117
Anthony Santander RF S 472 23.3% 9.7% 0.217 120
Ryan O'Hearn 1B L 222 23.4% 5.0% 0.199 128
Ryan Mountcastle DH R 343 23.6% 6.1% 0.211 114
Adam Frazier 2B L 351 12.0% 7.4% 0.177 99
Austin Hays LF R 406 23.9% 5.9% 0.159 108
Colton Cowser CF L 74 29.7% 14.9% 0.179 31
Ramón Urías 3B R 297 25.3% 7.1% 0.138 100

The Orioles most valuable player by fWAR is also their leadoff hitter, sophomore catcher Adley Rutschman. Rutschman boasts a 124 wRC+ and a low 14.8% strikeout rate. Outfielders Anthony Santander, Cedric Mullins II, and Austin Hays, too, have wRC+ in the 110-120 range, with Santander being the most consistent hitter and the most powerful of the three (he leads the Orioles with 20 home runs). Mullins has been out since mid-July with a right adductor groin strain, but has completed a rehab assignment and is likely to be back in the lineup in Seattle. This will be a major upgrade since his replacement, 2021 first round draft pick Colton Cowser, has struggled mightily in his first 25 games in the bigs. Rookie shortstop Gunnar Henderson is having a very good debut season, and the rest of the infield (including Mariners’ 2022 headache Adam Frazier) are regular contributors keeping the lineup from having any gaping holes.

Since July 1, however, the standout offensive leader for the Orioles has been designated hitter/first baseman Ryan Mountcastle. Mountcastle had a dismal first half, spending a portion of it on the injured list with vertigo. Since his recovery, however, he’s been dazzling, putting up a 206 wRC+, 1.1 fWAR, and a .412 average since July 1. Here’s an article from our sister site breaking down what’s working.

Probable Pitchers

Updated Stuff+ Explainer

New York Mets v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

RHP Kyle Gibson

140 19.9% 7.3% 9.3% 49.0% 4.50 3.74
Pitch Frequency Velocity Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+ xwOBA
Four-seam 13.8% 92.1 79 82 105 0.361
Sinker 24.7% 91.9 91 67 72 0.369
Cutter 17.3% 89.8 91 62 106 0.339
Changeup 18.1% 85.4 86 102 83 0.295
Curveball 8.8% 79.5 88 133 107 0.241
Sweeper 17.3% 81.4 108 140 103 0.237

From a previous series preview:

Kyle Gibson is the perfect kind of veteran starter for Baltimore. Able to eat innings while their young pitching prospects continued to develop, he also had enough recent success that you could squint and see a productive season if everything went right for the Orioles. And that’s exactly what’s happened this year. Gibson has continued the success that led to his All-Star season in 2021, though the exact shape of his peripherals are a little different. His strikeout rate has fallen by nearly three points but those losses have been offset by a home run rate that’s also fallen thanks to the enormous confines of his new home stadium.

The Mariners knocked Gibson around in their last meeting, scoring five runs on seven hits and three walks in just three innings.

LHP Cole Irvin

48 20.1% 7.8% 10.0% 36.4% 5.44 4.31
Pitch Frequency Velocity Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+ xwOBA
Four-seam 30.5% 92.0 71 90 79 0.367
Sinker 19.7% 91.8 77 145 55 0.446
Cutter 12.6% 86.0 100 88 73 0.349
Changeup 21.2% 83.8 76 62 67 0.454
Curveball 15.9% 77.0 91 58 130 0.289

You may remember Cole Irvin from his time with the A’s the past two seasons (or for making the regrettable mistake of underestimating the Mariners). He was traded to the Orioles in the offseason and has bounced between the majors and Triple-A as the sixth man in Baltimore’s rotation. He’s enjoyed a slight bump in fastball velocity this year, though some of that can be chalked up to being used out of the bullpen after the All-Star break. His strikeout rate has jumped to a career-high 20.1% with a pretty significant jump in whiff rate on his sinker and cutter. That’s been offset by an increase in walk rate leading to an overall strikeout-to-walk ratio right in line with his career norms.

RHP Kyle Bradish

115 2/3 22.7% 7.0% 11.4% 46.5% 3.19 3.78
Pitch Frequency Velocity Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+ xwOBA
Four-seam 25.3% 94.4 100 74 90 0.431
Sinker 19.1% 94.7 88 90 67 0.356
Changeup 8.5% 90.7 102 31 84 0.35
Curveball 17.4% 84.7 136 105 75 0.227
Slider 29.8% 88.0 168 97 76 0.264

From a previous series preview:

Kyle Bradish made his major league debut last season to mixed results. A fantastic slider that produced plenty of swings and misses was undermined by a too-hittable fastball. Opposing batters slugged over .500 off his heater and he wasn’t generating an above average whiff rate to offset all that hard contact. This year, he’s deemphasized his four-seamer in favor of his sinker. That’s helped him manage his contact a bit more, but it hasn’t helped his ability to strike batters out. Right now, he has one swing-and-miss pitch and a handful of other pitches that he’s using to try and get to his slider once he’s ahead.

Bradish was brilliant against the Mariners back in June, allowing just two runs in seven innings while striking out seven.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Rangers 68-47 0.591 -- W-W-W-W-L
Astros 66-50 0.569 2.5 L-W-W-W-L
Mariners 62-52 0.544 5.5 W-W-W-W-W
Angels 58-58 0.500 10.5 L-L-L-W-W
Athletics 33-82 0.287 35.0 W-W-L-L-W

The Wild Card Race

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Tampa Bay 69-48 0.590 +4.0 L-W-W-L-L
Astros 66-50 0.569 +1.5 L-W-W-W-L
Blue Jays 65-52 0.556 -- W-W-L-W-L
Mariners 62-52 0.544 1.5 W-W-W-W-W
Red Sox 60-55 0.522 4.0 L-W-L-W-W
Yankees 59-56 0.513 5.0 W-L-L-W-L

It turns out when you win seven games in a row, you gain some ground in the standings. The Mariners are now 5.5 games back in the division and 1.5 (!) out of the third Wild Card spot, thanks to a Blue Jays loss on our off day yesterday. We’re also five full games ahead of the Angels, which I have to admit feels pretty great. Series to keep an eye on this weekend include: In the AL West, the Rangers play three in San Francisco, while the Astros (Wild Card #2) and the Angels play three in Houston. The Wild Card #1 Rays just lost two of three to the Cardinals, and host the Guardians starting today. The Blue Jays hold on to Wild Card #3 after splitting four games with the aforementioned Guardians, and host the Cubs this weekend. The Red Sox and Yankees are a few games behind Seattle in the playoff race: they open series today against the Tigers and Marlins.