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Orioles-Mariners series preview: The final home series of 2019

The O’s finish their home slate with a matchup against a team that’s in unprecedented roster flux.

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Baltimore Orioles Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

For the last time this season, the Orioles will take the field at Camden Yards. And the team they’re playing against, the Seattle Mariners, is nearly unrecognizable.

You know how it seems like the Orioles have had a ridiculous amount of roster turnover this year? They have — they’ve used 58 different players. And yet, that’s nothing compared to the Mariners, who have shuttled through an incredible 67 players in 2019. Sixty-seven! With a six! And a seven! Just think of all the random placeholders and roster-fillers who have put on the O’s uniform this year, and then add an entire starting lineup’s worth of players on top of that. That’s the 2019 Mariners.

Their 67 players used, not surprisingly, is an MLB record for a single season. Here, try naming them all in this Sporcle quiz. I, a person who considers myself fairly knowledgeable about baseball, got 24 out of 67. Four of these guys have also played for the Orioles this season, and another was an Oriole last year. But there are some names on this list that I’m not convinced are actual people.

The unprecedented roster maneuvering is the manic brainchild of Jerry Dipoto, the GM who couldn’t sit still. Last month, Dipoto made his 100th trade since joining the Mariners less than four years ago. That’s...a lot.

The current Seattle club includes just 10 players from this year’s Opening Day roster, and there’s also been significant turnover even since the last time the O’s faced the Mariners three months ago. Recently promoted right fielder Kyle Lewis is off to a sizzling start to his big league career, with five home runs in his first nine games. Their new left fielder is Stacey’s cousin Shed Long (not actually Stacey’s cousin), and their regular first baseman is Aaron’s brother Austin Nola (that one is true). Both are hitting well so far. They’ve got a new closer, too, in journeyman right-hander Matt Magill, who’s five for seven in save chances.

Game 1: Friday, 7:05 PM

RHP Felix Hernandez (1-6, 6.31) vs. LHP Richard Bleier (3-0, 5.63)

Hernandez is one of the few recognizable names on this overhauled M’s roster, a six-time All-Star and former Cy Young winner who has spent his entire 15-year career in Seattle. His contract ends after this season, though, and his Mariners career — and possibly major league career — is ending with a whimper rather than a bang. Hernandez’s ERA has worsened each of the past five years, currently sitting at an unsightly 6.31 in 13 starts this year, and he hasn’t been even a league-average pitcher since 2016.

Still, remember what a thrill it used to be to watch King Felix? We might be seeing the last or second-to-last start of his illustrious major league tenure, so enjoy it.

Hernandez’s 417th major league start will come against Bleier, who is making his first. Other than a rehab outing at Bowie this year, Bleier hasn’t started a professional game since 2016, when he was in Triple-A in the Yankees’ organization. He is, of course, not going to be a starter in the traditional sense, but instead merely the first pitcher in a parade of Orioles bullpen arms. What could go wrong? Bleier is the 18th different pitcher to start a game for the O’s this year.

Game 2: Saturday, 7:05 PM

LHP Justus Sheffield (0-1, 5.40) vs. RHP Asher Wojciechowski (3-8, 5.38)

At 23 years old, Sheffield has already been involved in two high-profile trades, first going from the Indians to the Yankees in the 2016 Andrew Miller trade, then from New York to Seattle in last winter’s James Paxton deal. Perhaps the Mariners are the team he’ll finally stick with, although with Dipoto in charge, who knows? The lefty has made five major league starts, lasting five innings in only two of them, and is still seeking his first big league win. He’s allowed 48 baserunners in 26.2 innings this year, so he appears to be a work in progress, though he does have 30 strikeouts.

After a couple of sensational outings near the beginning of his O’s tenure, Wojciechowski has faded recently, with no quality starts since Aug. 11. He did snap an eight-start winless drought by beating the Tigers his last time out, if a five-inning, two-run outing against the worst team in baseball is something you want to hang your hat on. Wojo has faced the Mariners only once in his career, giving up four runs in four innings in a 2015 start for Houston. Kyle Seager, who doubled off him that day, is the only Mariner from that game still on the team.

Game 3: Sunday, 1:05 PM

LHP Marco Gonzales (16-11, 4.14) vs. LHP John Means (10-11, 3.65)

Gonzales is the ace of a Mariners staff that has been through constant turmoil. He leads the club in starts (32), innings pitched (189), and wins (16), though with a strikeout rate of just 6.6, he doesn’t blow hitters away. He’s faced the Orioles twice in his career, both in 2017, and was torched both times, giving up nine runs and 17 hits in 7.2 innings. The good news for him is that almost none of the hitters he faced in those games are still on the Orioles.

Means had rattled off four consecutive quality starts before a hiccup in his last outing in Detroit, when he was hit hard in the first and last innings but effective in between. Means, who threw 160.2 innings between three levels last year, is currently at 143 this season, so he should be fine to make his final two starts without any worry about his innings count. Another couple of quality outings should lock him into a top-3 spot in the AL Rookie of the Year vote, though there’s no chance he beats Astros slugger Yordan Alvarez for the award.

Poll

How many games will the Orioles win in this series against the Mariners?

This poll is closed

  • 7%
    3 (Orioles will finally sweep!)
    (7 votes)
  • 32%
    2
    (30 votes)
  • 44%
    1
    (41 votes)
  • 15%
    0 (Orioles will get swept, lame)
    (14 votes)
92 votes total Vote Now