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Orioles-Mariners series preview: More late games out west

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The Orioles started off their west coast road trip with two wins against the Padres and now they look to continue their winning ways in Seattle

Here are some things I know about the Seattle Mariners: 1) They signed Nelson Cruz after the 2014 season and he is still going strong, 2) Robinson Cano is really good, 3) They have one of those Seager brothers, 4) Most of their games are played too late in the evening for me to watch, and 5) Felix Hernandez is on the disabled list.

What more does one really need to know going into a series with the Mariners? They started off the season pretty good, putting up good numbers in April and even better number in June. In fact they spent 32 days in first place between Opening Day and June 2nd.

June, though, has not been good to them. They have gone 9-17 in the month and are now just a .500 team, sitting in third place in their division behind the Rangers and Astros.

It seems like we’ve all been waiting a long time for the Mariners to get good again. It’s not too late for them this year, but they have a long uphill climb with an 11-game deficit in their division and five teams ahead of them in the Wild Card race. Yes, I know it’s early. I’m just saying!

Game 1: June 30th, 10:10 PM Eastern

Chris Tillman vs. Taijuan Walker

With Felix Hernandez injured, Walker has put up the best numbers of the active starters. He has missed some time himself with a foot injury, but hasn’t yet gone on the disabled list.

Today’s start will be the first that Walker has made since June 19th, and that was after he left his previous two starts early due to his foot injury. It sounds like he’s ready to go, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see that he’s on a pretty short leash.

One thing to note about Walker is that he gives up his share of dingers: 1.7 per nine innings and 14 total in his 14 starts. The Orioles are looking to break the June record for home runs hit so maybe Walker can help them out.

As for Tillman, he’s coming off a rough start against the Rays last Saturday. I have faith he’ll bounce back, especially against the team that traded him to the Orioles. In his career against the Mariners he has pitched to a 2.96 ERA in nine starts.

Game 2: July 1st, 10:10 pm Eastern

Kevin Gausman vs. Wade “Don’t call me Matt” LeBlanc

Wade LeBlanc has been kicking around baseball since 2006, when he was drafted by the Padres. He made his major league debut in 2008 and has been up and down ever since, never pitching a full season in the majors.

He didn’t sniff the majors at all in 2015 and so far this year has made just one start for the Mariners, going six shutout innings against the Cardinals in June 24th. That was enough to earn him another start.

Kevin Gausman is coming off of an outstanding game against the Rays last week in which he pitched 7.2 shutout innings with seven strikeouts and no walks. It was a thing of beauty and hopefully a sign that he is getting his season together.

Game 3: July 2nd, 10:10 PM Eastern

Tyler Wilson vs. James Paxton

James Paxton has been in the rotation since Felix Hernandez got hurt. He has had some bad outings but he doesn’t walk many and he strikes out a lot of batters. His problem has been that teams have been hitting him all over the place. He has given up 47 hits in just 34.2 innings. He’s a lefty, by the way, though the Orioles have managed to beat the lefties this year.

Just when it looked like Tyler Wilson was changing his ways, he gave up 10 hits and five runs to the Rays in just five innings last weekend. Let’s just hope he can hold the Mariners to a few fewer runs.

Game 4: July 3rd, 4:10 Eastern

TBD vs. Hisashi Iwakuma

The Orioles haven’t announced who will make this start, but I assume it will be Ubaldo Jimenez. Jimenez has been decent by his standards his past two starts, both against the Padres. It’s also possible we might see Vance Worley in this spot.

You may remember Hisashi Iwakuma as the guy who no-hit the Orioles last year. No, I don’t want to talk about it either.

This year he has been about league average, so I expect the Orioles should be able to knock him around some. That or get no-hit again.