The suddenly red-hot Seattle Mariners take their five-game winning streak with them to Baltimore as they open up a three-game series with the Orioles. The Mariners have taken advantage of some soft scheduling here late in the year to win five straight and seven out of their last nine. Wins over the Reds, White Sox, and Pirates have given the Mariners their best stretch of success in months.
And while the season is ending with the Mariners missing the playoffs yet again, they haven’t made it to the postseason since they won 116-games in 2001, they do have some reasons to be optimistic about the future as many of their young players are showing promise since being called up late in the season.
For Baltimore, they are historically bad as they lost heir 104th game last night, slotting them as one of the worst teams in recent memory. If it weren’t for the Detroit Tigers being even worse this year, keeping the media attention away from the Orioles struggles, their 110-loss pace would be headline news. Things are only getting worse here in September for the Orioles as they are just 4-14 on the month.
Starting for the Mariners is Felix Hernandez (1-6 6.31 ERA), and for the Orioles it is Richard Bleier (3-0 5.63 ERA). The game total over-under is set at ten and a half runs. The Mariners are small -111 road favorites. First pitch is scheduled for 4:05 PM PST from Camden Yards in Baltimore.
Is this the end for King Felix Hernandez in Seattle? The longtime face of the Seattle franchise is a free agent after this year, and with his poor results and even poorer health, you have to wonder if the team will cut ties with the once and former King of Seattle after this season. If this is the end, it is a bit of a sad ending to a historic career.
Hernandez is as good of a pitcher as they have ever had in Seattle and he will find himself in the Hall of Fame when all is said and done with his career. He owns basically every Mariners career pitching record including wins and strikeouts, but the sad part of his story is that he never once got to pitch in the postseason. The Mariners managed to waste his entire career in perpetual rebuild mode, and now as they are in year one of what appears to be another multi-year rebuild, it seems that King Felix’s run in the Emerald City is coming to an end.
Felix missed most of this season with injury and returned to the team in late August. He has been mostly hit and miss since returning with one really bad start against the Houston Astros sticking out as an almost inhumane beating. In that one, Hernandez got pounded for eleven runs in just two innings of work. But in his last start, he looked like vintage King Felix as he pitched seven innings of one-run ball against the Chicago White Sox.
Does the King have anything left in the gas tank in what could be his last ever start for the only team he has ever played for in his fifteen-year big-league career? The stats say that he just might, as the Orioles have been one of the worst hitting teams in the majors all season long.
Baltimore will go with opener Richard Bleier tonight in game one. Bleier has worked exclusively out of the bullpen this season, and in forty-eight appearances has pitched just forty-eight innings. And he hasn’t been all that effective either as his ERA is high at 5.63. He has been much better recently though as his ERA in September is just 2.25 in seven appearances, spanning eight total innings. Either way, you can expect to see Bleier for just one inning, two at the max, tonight at home.
That means we are going to get a heavy dose of the Baltimore bullpen tonight. And that spells bad news for Orioles fans. The Orioles bullpen isn’t just bad, it is horrendous. Their staff’s ERA is a sky-high 5.83. Opposing batters are hitting .277 against them, the highest in the majors. They have allowed a whopping 432 runs this season, no other bullpen has allowed even 400 yet this year. Some teams can get away with the bullpen by committee approach, I am certain the Orioles aren’t one of them.
Wow, how the mighty have fallen. To see Felix Hernandez, former Cy Young Award winner and many time All-Star, as just a -111 road favorite against a team that is as bad as these Orioles are is just depressing. But something tells me that this guy has just enough left in the gas tank to figure out how to beat a dreadfully bad Orioles team.
The Orioles can’t hit, and they can’t pitch. They are losing games at a pace that is nearly unprecedented in the modern era, and I don’t think I would like them at this price against anybody. And when you look at this Mariners team, yeah, they are clearly rebuilding, but they are playing hard still as many of their young guys are starting to figure things out at the major league level. Guys like Dan Vogelbach, Shed Long, and Kyle Lewis give this M’s team some decent pop.
Despite the fact that winning hasn’t been a major part of the equation this season for Seattle, the Mariners are still in the top ten in the game in home runs, and they are in the top half of the game in slugging percentage and runs scored too. This team can hit the baseball and having nine innings against the worst bullpen in the game has to be a great spot. So, I will back the Mariners and King Felix one last time tonight. Give me the Seattle Mariners as road favorites in game one at -111!