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Orioles-Mariners series preview: The first non-East opponent in 18 months

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It’s been a while since the Orioles have seen an opponent outside of either the AL or NL East. That changes this week.

Seattle Mariners v Baltimore Orioles
Camden Yards was already this empty the last time the Orioles and Mariners played here without any pandemic restrictions.
Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Quick! Name one current Seattle Mariners player. Here’s their roster. If you correctly named one player without looking, reward yourself with a cookie.

The Orioles never see much of any non-division team even in a typical year, with one home and away series against teams like the Mariners. The strange circumstances of the 2020 shortened season meant we did not get a look at them last season. A lot can change when you don’t see a team for 18 months.

When the O’s played their first home game in front of fans at Camden Yards last week, one bit of trivia that made the rounds is that no player from Thursday’s home opener was that no player from the 2019 home finale was in that starting lineup.

The team they played in that 2019 game was the Mariners. Seattle’s transformation from then to now isn’t as total as the O’s appeared to be, but it’s still substantial. There are two Mariners from this 2019 lineup, Kyle Seager and J.P. Crawford, who are getting regular playing time to begin the 2021 season. There are a lot of new faces.

The Mariners are a team that, much like the O’s, have been in need of new faces. They are infamously holding the longest streak in MLB of consecutive seasons without making the playoffs. The 2001 Mariners, who won 116 games, is the most recent Seattle postseason team. Not even the expanded field last year, and the fact that a below-.500 record could have gotten them into the playoffs, was enough to break this streak.

Seattle’s also like the Orioles in that they are counting on a series of prospects to be able to make their way to the MLB level to change their fortunes soon. That “soon” is not expected to be this year, with a projected 71 or 72 wins from sites like Fangraphs and Baseball Prospectus. The MLB Pipeline farm ranking that put the Orioles as the #5 farm system has the Mariners even higher at #3. They have six players in the top 100 of this prospect list.

Only one of those six Mariners prospects is on the roster to begin this season. That’s 23-year-old outfielder Taylor Trammell, a late-first round pick by the Reds in 2016 who was traded to the Padres in 2019 and then on to the Mariners in 2020. Beware any twice-traded prospect. Once a second team decides a prospect is expendable, it’s a bit of a red flag.

Trammell is coming off a strong spring training where he batted .311/.392/.644 in 19 games played. However, per the Baseball Reference tracking of opponent quality, Trammell was, on average, facing between High-A and Double-A caliber players, so that may be even less meaningful than the typical spring training number.

The start of the 2021 season has produced a horrible batting average for Trammell, as he’s hitting just .185 with 16 strikeouts already in 34 plate appearances. That’s... not good! However, Trammell has also drawn seven walks, and three of his five hits to date have been for extra bases, so his .797 OPS looks a lot better than you’d think from that batting average.

Trammell, along with every other Mariner, is probably looking forward to getting an extended series against the O’s pitching staff.

All games will be broadcast on MASN and on the Orioles Radio Network, and anyone who’s in Mariners territory can watch on ROOT Northwest or listen on the Mariners Radio Network.

Scheduled games and pitching matchups

Monday, 7:05pm

Dean Kremer vs. Justus Sheffield

The 24-year-old lefty Sheffield is like Trammell in that he was twice traded as a prospect, going from Cleveland to New York in the Andrew Miller deal in 2016, then from New York to Seattle in the James Paxton trade after the 2018 season. Sheffield thrived with his all-West diet in 2020, with a 3.58 ERA and 3.17 FIP in ten starts. In his first start of 2021, he gave up four runs in five innings to the White Sox.

On his way up the minor league ladder, Sheffield maintained a strikeout rate of over a batter per inning. That’s dipped a bit at the MLB level, with Sheffield picking up 90 strikeouts in 99 big league innings. With how the Orioles are striking out so far this season, no one should be surprised if Sheffield hits double digits. If nothing else, Sheffield will probably get the O’s hitters a long way towards extending their streak of games with 10+ strikeouts.

Tuesday, 7:05pm

John Means vs. Nick Margevicius

Margevicius is one of several Mariners who, 24 hours ago before I started writing this article, I might have suspected of just having randomly generated names. Will Vest. Ty France. Tom Murphy. Drew Steckenrider. Are you kidding me? I shouldn’t throw stones - I’m sure a Mariners fan might gaze upon the O’s roster with similar feelings. Ryan Mountcastle is absolutely the name of someone who could be traveling with a rogue, wizard, and cleric.

This is the third MLB season for the 24-year-old lefty Margevicius, who was claimed by the Mariners from the Padres early in 2020. Last year, Margevicius had a 4.57 ERA and 4.35 FIP over ten games. He’s given up four runs in 4.2 innings so far in 2021 over two relief outings, so he’s probably not stretched out for a lengthy outing here.

It’s lefties all the way down for these first two games. Means has allowed one run in 11.2 innings over his first two starts. If he is due for a stinker, let’s hope that the Mariners aren’t the team to do it.

Wednesday, 7:05pm

Matt Harvey vs. Justin Dunn

One way a team can get on a path to eventually turn its fortunes around is if it can sucker some other team into making a bad trade. O’s fans remember the Mariners were that sucker for Erik Bedard. The Mariners found a sucker in the Mets when they dealt Robinson Canó. The top prospect that Seattle got in that deal was Jarred Kelenic, who was hurt during spring training. Dunn was another interesting player they received.

Although Dunn’s 4.34 ERA in the shortened 2020 season doesn’t look too bad, that comes with a 6.54 FIP because he walked 30 batters in 45.2 innings. Dunn also gave up ten home runs. Tough going! Dunn did not give up a homer in his 2021 debut but he did walk a whopping eight batters in a 4.2 inning outing. That’s... uh... bad. He only gave up one hit and still had nearly a 2 WHIP. Hopefully the Orioles will display some patience here.

Through two starts with the O’s, Harvey has a 5.59 ERA. His FIP of 3.29 suggests he has deserved a bit better than that. Some bad defense behind him and bad relief of runners he left on base have cost him runs. Perhaps his luck will start to turn for the better in this matchup.

Thursday, 1:05pm

Bruce Zimmermann vs. Marco Gonzales

This game will mark the Jackie Robinson Day celebration for MLB, so all players on both teams will be wearing the number 42.

It’s the third game in the series where two lefties are the starting pitchers. Zimmermann has pitched two games so far in 2021 with two minimum quality starts: 6 IP, 3 ER, or a 4.50 ERA. That was good enough for a win in Fenway, but his offense, defense, and bullpen let him down in his hometown park in Baltimore. He’ll get another chance at a home win as the series concludes with this day game.

Gonzales’s two 2021 starts to date have been the opposite of quality. He gave up five runs in six innings on an Opening Day game that the Mariners eventually won, then allowed seven runs in a 4.1 inning outing against the Twins. Gonzalez facing the Orioles lineup is going to be a real test of the stoppable force coming into contact with the movable object.

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With the egg that the Orioles laid in their home opening series against the Red Sox, they are now below .500 for the season. If the O’s can at least split this series against Seattle, then we might be able to tell ourselves that they can hold on around .500 for a little while. If they keep on dropping, well... that’s what we mostly all expected anyway, so it’s not like that would be too disappointing.

Poll

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

This poll is closed

  • 6%
    4 (The Orioles sweep)
    (12 votes)
  • 22%
    3
    (42 votes)
  • 46%
    2
    (86 votes)
  • 17%
    1
    (32 votes)
  • 6%
    0 (The Orioles get swept)
    (12 votes)
184 votes total Vote Now