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Orioles-Mariners series preview: Two teams with the same record square off in Seattle

The Orioles and Mariners enter this series with the same record. That’s more fun for us than it is for their fans.

Seattle Mariners v Baltimore Orioles
Adley really does have some nice hair, you guys.
Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

For an Orioles fan, the O’s holding a 34-40 record as we head into the final series of June is mighty exciting. The team was expected to be much worse than this and is proving to be surprisingly fun so far after years of bleak existence.

Mariners fans probably feel a bit differently about their team being 34-40 right now. They were ticketed for better than this, with a preseason PECOTA projection for 83 wins. That’s in the range where you only need a few things to break right to suddenly have a dominant 90+ win squad. That’s not how it’s worked out. Instead, they’re seven games out of the final wild card spot as June winds down. They, like the O’s, are on pace for a 74-88 season.

The nature of a three-game series between teams with identical records is that one of these teams will leave it better off than the other. If the Orioles win the series and head into July at only five games below .500, that would feel wonderful compared to the recent past. Even if the O’s merely win one of three, they’ll still have secured their first winning full month since August 2017. That would be a nice prize. Seattle would probably not feel so good about only winning one of these games.

The weekend that just finished was perhaps a bit more eventful for the Mariners. Their Sunday loss to the Angels featured a second-inning donnybrook that was sparked by an Angels pitcher who had been inserted last-minute as an opener seeming to intentionally throw at Mariners outfielder Jesse Winker. The result of this was that three Mariners players, four Angels players, and both managers were ejected.

Suspensions may be forthcoming, but maybe not in time to be served for this series. Winker, J.P. Crawford, and Julio Rodríguez - three of the top four hitters in the Seattle lineup - were bounced. The Mariners ended up losing by a run. They’re 13-11 in June, so they’re guaranteed a winning month unless they get swept. A winning month would probably mean less to them since they just had one with an 11-10 April, or if you don’t count that as a full month due to the lockout-related late start, 19-10 last September/October.

The Mariners, for what it’s worth, are a .500 team if you go by the Pythagorean expected record based on run differential. They’ve scored 293 runs and given up 294. The Orioles have a -25 run differential (302 scored, 327 allowed), which puts them right at their expected record of 34-40.

Game 1, Monday, June 27, 10:10 Eastern, MASN 2

Starting pitchers: Tyler Wells (14 GS, 3.34 ERA / 4.28 FIP) vs. George Kirby (9 GS, 3.12 ERA / 3.75 FIP)

Something that stands out about the Orioles offense so far is that they’ve been fairly consistent across the two big platoon splits: facing lefties vs. facing righties, and home vs. away. The vs. LHP split is 12 OPS points better than vs. RHP. Home/away OPS is nine points better for away than home. However, the same cannot be said of Orioles pitchers. They have larger gaps for both, performing 56 points better against lefties and a whopping 101 points better on the road than at home.

Tyler Wells has been part of both halves of this trend for the pitching staff. His road ERA is more than two runs higher than it is at home. And although you’d expect a righty to excel against righties, he’s been better so far against lefties by 142 points of OPS. The Mariners are stuffed with lefties, with six of their nine regulars capable of batting from the left. I wonder whether they’ll consider Wells’s split in making out their lineup or not.

Kirby, the Mariners first round pick in 2019, also has had platoon problems so far in his rookie campaign. He, too, has reverse splits as a righty pitcher, with righty batters teeing up for a .315/.351/.576 batting line. The difference from Wells is that Kirby’s home ERA is nearly a run higher than his road ERA. How these trends intersect may go a long way to determining the victor of the series opener.

Game 2, Tuesday, June 28, 10:10 Eastern, MASN 2

Starting pitchers: Dean Kremer (4 GS, 1.71 ERA / 3.26 FIP) vs. Robbie Ray (15 GS, 4.07 ERA / 4.17 FIP)

Until he has been retired for so long that I forget about his existence, Robbie Ray will always be the whiner who petulantly suggested the Orioles were stealing his signs because he didn’t do very well against them in his Cy Young-winning season. Maybe he still thinks they’ve got his signs, as he gave up four runs in five innings in Baltimore early this year. Ray has not been pitching like he’s in danger of winning back-to-back Cys this season. His last three starts have been great, though, with just two runs allowed in 22 innings.

An interesting fact about Ray: At this moment, he is baseball’s all-time leader (1000 IP minimum) in strikeouts per nine innings. Ray has struck out 11.0829 batters per nine, just ahead of second place Chris Sale at 11.0809. The top five players in this category are active right now, as are eight of the top ten. Ray is headed in the wrong direction so far this season, with “only” a 9.6 K/9 to date. This would still lead Orioles starting pitchers.

For Kremer, this start will be another chance for him to boost himself up out of forgotten territory. After his 7.73 ERA last season and his getting injured while warming up for relief in the first series of the season, I figured he was out of the picture. He’s come back from an oblique injury to find a rotation spot waiting for him for lack of better options and he has done well through a handful of starts. If he can keep this up, that would be fun. If he can’t, well, it’ll be fun while it lasts, just like it was for watching Bruce Zimmermann.

Game 3, Wednesday, June 29, 4:10 Eastern, MASN 2

Starting pitchers: Austin Voth (5 G / 2 GS, 3.00 ERA / 3.67 FIP as an Oriole) vs. Chris Flexen (14 GS, 4.31 ERA / 4.63 FIP)

When the Orioles found Voth sitting on waivers earlier in the month, I did not think we would still be talking about him by the end of the month. Here he is, though, not only still on the team but apparently in possession, at least temporarily, of a spot in the starting rotation. He arrived with a 10.13 ERA this season. I didn’t expect good things and still don’t. Maybe he’ll surprise me again. Note that although he’s getting stretched out as a starter, he hasn’t gone past 50 pitches or three innings in his two prior outings.

Flexen faced the Orioles when the Mariners were in Baltimore at the beginning of this month, allowing three earned runs in five innings of a game that Seattle eventually won in the tenth. The O’s 6-9 hitters were a combined 1-14 in that game. Adley Rutschman (0-4) was still getting his feet wet. Maybe he’ll do better now. And maybe so will whoever replaces Chris Owings and Ramón Urías in the lineup.

**

Prior to the just-concluded White Sox series, 52% of Camden Chat readers voted that they expect a split of the four-game set. Just 12% correctly predicted winning three out of four. Let’s hope this series is another one where the optimists get the last laugh.

Poll

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

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    0 (The Orioles are swept)
    (10 votes)
  • 34%
    1
    (75 votes)
  • 54%
    2
    (119 votes)
  • 6%
    3 (The Orioles sweep)
    (15 votes)
219 votes total Vote Now