It’s Friday night at T-Mobile and you know what the means: City Connect jerseys and fireworks. It’s also the opening of Félix weekend, and the Mariners are playing the team with the best record in the AL, who handed the Mariners a tough series loss the last time these two teams met during a disappointing road trip where the Mariners went 2-4 against the Yankees and Orioles, right before the Mariners hit the nadir of their season with a homestand loss against the lowly Nationals followed immediately by a shellacking at the hands of the Rays.
However, the Mariners turned it around mid-series following a players-only meeting and stormed back to start off July with a series win against the Rays, going 17-9 over the month and—despite a brief loss of focus against the lowly Tigers—racking up nine of ten series wins since the start of July, along with a series split. The Orioles remain a difficult opponent, but this Mariners team is playing differently than they were back in June.
Meanwhile, the Orioles have milkshake ducked themselves out of being the darlings who took down the perennial AL East powerhouses of New York and Boston thanks to a messy PR kerfuffle where the team punished a beloved broadcaster for...reading facts prepared about the team by the club’s own PR staff on air, apparently, that had the thin-skinned Angelos family rightfully scorned by the larger baseball world. Also, on more personal terms, the Orioles have been pursuing an outrage-farming social media strategy of taunting Mariners fans over the “King Félix” nickname for their closer Félix Batista, along with gleefully lifting the terms “chaos ball” and “fun differential,” both closely associated with the Mariners. Unfortunately, much like another universally despited team that features orange as a main color, they’re still playing really well on the field if committing unforced errors off of it. Read more in this week’s series preview.
Kyle Gibson doesn’t strike a ton of hitters out, but often throws a sweeping slider, aka Mariners kryptonite. The Mariners were able to beat up on his offerings pretty well during their last meeting, though, the one game they won in the series, knocking Gibson out by the third inning by taking advantage of some poor command (three walks, five runs).
The Mariners will counter with La Piedra on the bump, who didn’t face the Orioles during the last series. This will actually be the first time the Orioles are seeing Luis Castillo as a member of the Mariners, as the two had already completed their season series against each other prior to the trade deadline last season.
In case you missed the announcement, J.P. Crawford has been placed on the 7-day IL for concussion protocol. Sam Haggerty was summoned from Tacoma to replace him, but doesn’t get the start in tonight’s lineup, as the lefty Josh Rojas will handle starting duties at the keystone. The switch-hitting Haggerty is with the team, though, and will be available off the bench tonight.
Tonight’s game information:
It’s Fireworks Night at the park tonight, so the game gets a later start, at 7:10 PT. Mike Blowers is back, hooray!, and will be handling the television broadcast on ROOT Sports NW along with Aaron Goldsmith. Rick Rizzs and Dave Sims will have the radio broadcast over at 710 AM Seattle Sports, and streaming on mariners.com or via the At-Bat app.
Tomorrow’s game is sold out; if you have a ticket, make sure to get to the park early so you can be in your seat for Félix’s speech, which he wants everyone to know he wrote himself. Tickets are still available for Sunday’s game with the Félix bobblehead as a giveaway.
Today in Mariners history:
- 1985: In one of the earliest iterations of Chaos Ball (OUR THING, ALWAYS HAS BEEN), the Mariners allow six runs in the first inning in a game against Oakland, then come back to score eight runs, all unearned, in the third inning, en route to a 9-6 win.
- 1994: Randy Johnson strikes out 15 batters in a 4-1 complete game victory at Oakland, which is the high-water mark for strikeouts in the season. When Johnson strikes out Ernie Young to end the game, he also throws the final pitch of the 1994 season, as the players went on strike the next day.
- 2014: Félix Hernández extends his Major League record with his 16th consecutive start allowing 2 or fewer runs in at least 7.0 innings. Félix allowed just one run over seven innings and struck out eight as the Mariners defeated the Blue Jays, 11-1.
- 2021: Luis Torrens walks it off over the Rangers, making staffer Connor Donovan ascend to the heavens in transports of delight.