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Series Preview: Baltimore Orioles @ Seattle Mariners, 29 April - 1 May 2013

After going 3-1 against Oakland and just missing another sweep, the O's head to Seattle, where they'll see some familiar faces.

"That Cespedes homer? Ridiculous, man." "Tell me about it."
"That Cespedes homer? Ridiculous, man." "Tell me about it."
Thearon W. Henderson

Another series, another almost-sweep. It'd be nice to finish one off, but if you're winning series, you're doing well. Next stop, Safeco Field, for a reunion with postseason hero Joe Saunders and random Japanese ads on the backstop.

Monday, 29 April: Zach Britton @ Joe Saunders
Career Numbers Britton vs. Mariners
Saunders vs. O's
IP 14.0
ERA 2.57
FIP 3.81
Slash Line (Past Teams) .212/.241/.365 .333/.381/.479
Slash Line (Current Players) .250/.318/.400

Britton joins the O's today for his first major-league start of the year. He's faced the Mariners twice, both at Camden Yards, once each in 2011 and 2012. The former start was a three-hit shutout; the latter was a weak five-inning, two-homer performance. Britton's looked good enough in AAA for the O's to call him up for today, sporting a 1.98 ERA, but he walked more batters than he struck out down there, so color me nervous.

Meanwhile, Saunders has gotten knocked around in his last two starts, giving up fifteen runs to the Rangers and Astros, and has walked as many guys as he's struck out on the year. However, he's been good in his two home starts so far this season, yielding just one unearned run in 13.1 IP, also against the two Texan teams.

Neither team has current players with much experience against the opposing starter. Mariners hitters have a total of 22 PAs against Britton thanks to roster turnover, while Jones, Markakis, and Davis are the only O's with more than 3 PA against Saunders, and all three have an OPS well under .600.

Tuesday, 30 April: Jason Hammel @ Brandon Maurer
Career Numbers Hammel vs. Mariners Maurer vs. O's
IP 16.2 -
ERA 3.79
FIP 1.20
Slash Line (Past Teams) .267/.282/.307 -
Slash Line (Current Players) .236/.283/.382 -

That's a nice little FIP there, huh? Hammel really has yet to look like the staff ace that he was last year; his strikeout and ground ball percentages are well below what they were, and even when his results are good, he generally looks like he's struggling out there. Perhaps getting three consecutive starts in pitcher-friendly West Coast parks will help him to get back on track. The only Mariner with more than six PA against Hammel is ALDS nemesis Raul Ibanez, who sports a very Ibanez-esque .240/.296/.400 line in 27 PA.

Maurer is a rookie right-hander, making just his sixth career start on Tuesday. The FanGraphs scouting report on him makes him sound like a pretty conventional fourth starter, with the typical four-pitch mix and some potential, but nothing currently plus. He got knocked around for twelve runs in 6.2 IP in his first two starts, but has settled down since, giving up five runs (four earned) in nineteen innings.

Wednesday, 1 May: Wei-Yin Chen @ Aaron Harang
Career Numbers Chen vs. Mariners
Harang vs. O's
IP 12.2
ERA 2.84
FIP 3.88
Slash Line (Past Teams) .174/.208/.370
Slash Line (Current Players) .167/.194/.200

Chen has faced the Mariners twice, both at Safeco, and started the absurd eighteen-inning game last year. With any luck - and being a flyball pitcher in Safeco may be all he needs - he can deliver another start like the career-best eight shutout innings he pitched in Oakland. I'm discovering that these West Coast teams aren't very fun in the batter-pitcher matchups department, as no current Mariner has more than 6 PA against Chen.

Harang was traded from Oakland to Cincinnati during his second season (2003) and stayed in the National League until this year. He had three solid years with the Reds (2005-2007), but since, he's basically been a fourth/fifth starter and has bounced around a lot, the Mariners being the third team to pick him up in as many seasons. This year, he has shiny strikeout and walk rates (8.53 K/9 and 2.84 BB/9), but he's also given up six homers in 12.2 IP. A couple of current O's saw him in the NL, so I finally get to bust out the hot/not gimmick.

Maybe hot: J.J. Hardy (.825 OPS with 3 HR in 24 PA)

Likely not: Nate McLouth (.321 OPS with 11 K in 29 PA)

I don't believe in letting the runners steal any time they want. Some of my players might have stolen more bases for other clubs. Al Bumbry was a fast runner, and I usually let him run if he felt he had the jump, but Al would have stolen an extra ten or fifteen bases a year if he had been with a different team when he was in his prime. Of course, he might not have been on as many pennant winners. - Earl Weaver