The Baltimore Orioles (55-45) get to town with a three-game lead in the east after trips to Oakland and Anaheim. These four games end their long road venture to the west coast without a day of rest.
For the Mariners, it’s the storm before the storm. Monday, the club heads out on a six-day, six-game trip to Cleveland and Baltimore.
|Vs. AL West||14-9|
|AVG||.262 (4th in AL)|
|RISP, 2 Out||.232/.319/.359|
|SP FIP||4.52 (15)|
|RP FIP||3.81 (9)|
|Vs. AL East||9-7|
|RISP, 2 Out||.247/.336/.394|
|SP FIP||3.86 (6)|
|RP FIP||3.21 (1)|
The two clubs perform similarly with runners in scoring position and Seattle actually has an edge with runners in scoring position and two outs. To reiterate the real problem with those numbers, the Mariners simply produce fewer chances than all but two clubs in the American League, and far fewer opportunities with multiple runners on base.
The latter scenario is where the Orioles make up for being the club that produces the fewest chances with runners in scoring position. Not only do they hit the long ball as well as any team in the league, they also produce with multiple runners in scoring position, including batting .299 with a .506 slugging percentage in 92 chances with the bases loaded. The Orioles bat .338/.386/.471 with 41 runs scored in 84 chances with runners at first and third.
Pitching Matchups | Jason A. Churchill, 1090 The Fan
Thursday: Hisashi Iwakuma, RHP vs. Wei-Yin Chen, LHP
Iwakuma is on another roll that includes 108 straight batters faced without issuing a base on balls. He’s yielded five earned runs on 22 hits over 28 2/3 innings in his past four starts and should be well rested after being pulled at the 77-pitch count last start in Anaheim.
Iwakuma vs. Orioles
Iwakuma Splits (big-leagues):
Home: 2.81 ERA, 7 HR, .231 BAA
Road: 3.18 ERA, 4 HR, .263 BAA
Scouting Wei-Yin Chen
Grades reflect 20-80 scouting scale; 80 is outstanding, among league’s best, 50 is major-league average, 20 is poor, not in line with big-league standards.
Four-seam Fastball (91-93 mph): 60
Two-seam Fastball (91-93): 50
Slider (81-83) : 40
Curveball (74-76): 450
Changeup (82-84) : 40
Chen vs. Mariners
Dustin Ackley: 1-7, 2 SO
Brad Miller: 0-4, SO
Kyle Seager: 0-11, BB, 2 SO
Robinson Cano: 4-18, 2B, HR, 3 BB, 6 SO
LHB: .315/.348/.472, 3 HR
RHB: .276/.309/.484, 15 HR
Home: 3.92 ERA, 10 HR, .287 BAA
Away: 4.68 ERA, 8 HR, .284 BAA
Chen gets by with plus control and a good fastball that he uses all over the zone. Neither breaking ball is consistent so left-handed batters can sit on his fastball, which can touch 94 mph. When Chen commands it well he’s a difficult at-bat, but he’s up a lot, which leads to extra-base hits — he’s allowed 18 long balls this season.
Chen’s curveball can be solid and it can be effective versus right-handed batters, too. His changeup is below average, as is the slider, which he throws about eight percent of the time.
He will mix in a two-seam fastball and overall uses the heater nearly two-thirds of the time. Bad news for the Mariners is they don’t hit the fastball well as a team.
Friday: Felix Hernandez, RHP vs. Kevin Gausman, RHP
Hernandez is looking to continue an incredible run that began after a sub par outing at Oakland May 7. Since then, Hernandez has posted video game numbers, getting into or beyond the seventh inning in 13 consecutive starts and allowing more than two earned runs one just one occasion.
He’s the Cy Young frontrunner and it’s really not all that close, with Boston lefty Jon Lester the closest in fWAR (4.5 to Hernandez’s 5.3). King Felix leads the circuit with a 2.05 FIP and is also No. 1 with a 2.02 ERA and .240 OBPA. Yes, opponents are getting on base at a mere .240 clip against Hernandez.
Hernandez vs. Orioles
Cruz: 15-59 (.254), 3-2B, 4 HR, 3 BB, 17 SO
Davis: 8-30 (.267), 2-2B, HR, BB, 8 SO
Ryan Flaherty: 1-2
:Hardy 2-10, BB, 4 SO
Nick Hundley: 2-14, 3 SO
Jones: 8-26, 3B, BB, 5 SO
David Lough: 1-3
Manny Machado: 1-3, SO
Nick Markakis: 13-28 (.464), 2-2B, 5 BB, 3 SO
Young: 3-17, 3B, BB, SO
LHB: .204/.249/.272, 2 HR
RHB: .186/.227/.277, 3 HR
Home: 2.17 ERA, 3 HR, .189 BAA
Road: 188 ERA, 2 HR, .204 BAA
Scouting Kevin Gausman
Four-seam Fastball (93-97 mph): 70
Slider (79-81): 45
Changeup (84-86: 83-85
Gausman vs. Mariners
LHB: .260/.336/.385, 2 HR
RHB: .292/.333/.338, 0 HR
Home: 4.33 ERA, 2 HR, .260 BAA
Road: 3.52 ERA, 0 HR, .295 BAA
Gausman’s fastball is explosive helping his below-average slider play up and his mid-80s changeup devastating at times. He’s up to 98 with it and it can be effective up in the zone with late life. There’s some deception in his delivery that assists that even more.
When he keeps the ball on the edges he can be unhittable, often inducing weak pop ups and routine fly balls. He’s not always in command, however, which leads to high pitch counts. If the Mariners chase pitches Gausman will gobble them up and skate through seven frames. If they’re relatively patient they have a shot to get to the Orioles bullpen fairly early.
Saturday: Chris Young, RHP vs. Bud Norris, RHP
Young has given the Mariners a chance to win all but one of his 19 starts and he’s been throwing more strikes of late. The right-hander has issued just eight walks in his last seven starts, spanning 168 batters.
If he continues to stay out of the middle of the plate yet avoid the base on balls, he’ll keep the Mariners in games and go deep enough to save the club’s best asset, the relief corps, from having to cover too many innings.
Good news for Young, Hernandez and Iwakuma, the starters in the first three games of the series, the O’s are right-handed heavy with David and Markakis the lone legitimate threats from the left side. All three pitchers dominate right-handed batters.
Young vs. Orioles
Hardy: 0-6, SO
Pearce: 1-2, 2B, SO
LHB: .243/.314/.440, 10 HR
RHB: .187/.240/.353, 8 HR
Home: 2.45 ERA, 6 HR, .188 BAA
Road: 4.09 ERA, 12 HR, .251 BAA
Scouting Bud Norris
Four-seam Fastball (91-94 mph): 55
Two-seam Fastball (91-94): 55
Slider (85-87): 60
Changeup (84-87): 50
Norris vs. Mariners
Ackley: 2-5, 2B
Endy Chavez: 2-6, 2-2B
Brad Miller: 2-3, HR, BB
Seager: 3-8, HR, BB, SO
Zunino: 0-1, 2 BB, 1 SO
Hart: 5-18, 2 HR, 2 BB, 6 SO
Logan Morrison: 3-5, 2B
LHB: .245/.320/.386, 6 hR
RHB: .236/.308/.404, 6 HR
Home: 3.02 ERA, 4 HR< .238 BAA
Road: 4.42 ERA, 8 HR, .242 BAA
Norris is a classic three-pitch right-hander who occasionally mixes in a two-seam fastball to his four-seam, slider and changeup arsenal. The slider is his best pitch but he tends to overthrow it and its effectiveness is suppressed when he doesn’t command his fastball.
His velocity up a half-tick this season but the firmer slider has been key for him, particularly versus right-handed batters. The changeup is below average but Norris does a good job with his slider down and in versus lefties, and is adept at spotting his fastball to his arm side.
Sunday: Roenis Elias, LHP vs. Miguel Gonzalez, RHP
Elias took advantage of a long rest through the All-Star break and returned to form last time out versus the Mets. The southpaw whiffed eight and allowed just one earned run on two walks and five hits. He was pulled after cramping up in the sixth inning after just 90 pitches.
The southpaw, facing the Orioles for the first time, will have to spot his fastball better than he has in many of his outings this season, particularly considering he’s had a lot of his troubles versus right-handed batters, the strength of the Orioles lineup.
Like he did against the Mets Monday, Elias can throw his changeup for called strikes, but he must keep the pitch down and away from righties or an Adam Jones or Nelson Cruz can make him pay with the long ball.
LHB: .209/.287/.385, 3 HR
RHB: .255/.327/.404, 11 HR
Home: 4.84 ERA, 6 HR, .252 BAA
Road: 3.95 ERA, 8 HR, .238 BAA
Scouting Miguel Gonzalez
Four-seam Fastball (89-92 mph): 50
Two-seam Fastball (89-92): 50
Slider (83-85): 55
Curveball (75-77) 45
Changeup (82-85): 40
Gonzalez vs. Mariners
Cano: 2-18, 2 BB, 2 SO
LHB: .277/.352/.466, 8 HR
RHB: .257/.328/.467, 9 HR
Home: 3.30 ERA, 7 HR, .267 BAA
Road: 4.42 ERA, 10 HR, .269 BAA
Gonzalez’s 3.91 ERA is very much aided by good defense, randomly strong relief performances when inheriting runners and some luck.
He gives up a lot of extra-base hits and will walk his share of given the chance. The fastball is fairly true and occasionally will touch 94 mph. He lives up with everything, however, and while he gets away with it some, it’s also his undoing many times.
His changeup is below average but he will throw it every 7-10 pitches, and every fourth pitch to lefties. His curveball and slider flash above-average, the latter the more consistent of the two.
Sandmeyer Says | Steve Sandmeyer, 1090 The Fan
The Orioles showed well in their series against the Angels, so the Mariners better have more in store this weekend than what they mustered against the lowly Mets in losing two of three earlier this week. The ineptitude of this offense makes it imperative to win the Iwakuma and Felix starts — especially during a four game series against a playoff-caliber team like Baltimore.
The Mariners lineup cannot hit fastballs. Think about that for a minute.
As long as the Mariners run out Ackley in left (I don’t care how well he’s been hitting the last two weeks), the Chavez/Romero/your dog combination in right, and Hart at DH — this team isn’t going anywhere. Believe me.
One more week until the deadline. It would be a complete waste and a huge shame if this team didn’t upgrade at least two positions in the order — perhaps three — in a year where the second wildcard spot is ripe for the picking. Outside of that, I’ll wait and see what happens and reserve my judgment for another week. In the meantime, the only thing fans can do is hope — that an offense that couldn’t kick its own butt — somehow scores enough runs to support their pitching.
Key Stats | Jason A. Churchill, 1090 The Fan
Dustin Ackley is batting .375/.397/.482 with six doubles in 17 games this month, but he ranks No. 2 on the roster in production in July behind Robinson Cano’s .386/.442/.514 triple-slash … The club’s problems scoring runs is centered on a lack of chances with runners in scoring position. The culprits there are Endy Chavez and James Jones who have been batting in the top two spots in the order for the majority of the season. Neither is getting on base, and July has been even worse than the full season. Chavez is batting .241 with a .274 on-base percentage in July. Jones is at .240 with a .260 on-base mark. The pair have combined for four extra-base hits all month … The Orioles’ numbers don’t look good in July, either, but they still have managed to average more than four runs per game, thanks 22 home runs and 27 doubles. Cruz is batting just .257 with a .307 OBO in July, but does have three long balls, and Jones has four homers and a pair of doubles leading to 15 RBI … while the Baltimore lineup has scuffled a bit, the pitching has picked up the slack. The Orioles team ERA in July stands at 3.42, nearly a half-run better than their season mark, and the club’s relief corps has been nearly lights out with an ERA under three and a 2.79 FIP … The Mariners hold right-handed batters to a league-best .217 average and 22.7 strikeout percentage, No. 2 in the league.
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