The Orioles arrive in Seattle fresh off a pounding at the hands of the Kansas City Royals, who swept them in three games to start them on this road trip. Baltimore continues to be a dreadful club, on pace to lose 115 games for the season and, with a little help from the M's, maybe, potentially threaten the 2003 Tigers' AL record for losses (119). They are last in the league in hits, batting average, saves, hits allowed, earned runs allowed, and homers surrendered. They are next-to-last in OBP and ERA. This is an eminently beatable team.
But then, so were the San Diego Padres, and the Mariners couldn't do anything against them last week. The M's have sometimes played down to the level of their competition this year, so who knows what we'll see from them in this series vs. Baltimore.
The Orioles' lineup boasts one good bat, that of ex-Mariner Adam Jones. The veteran center fielder vetoed a trade to the Phillies in July, preferring to remain in Baltimore for personal reasons, though he's probably just playing out the string before he'll need to find a new club after the season; this is the final year of a 6-year contract extension for Jones, and the Orioles clearly want to go all-in on a youth movement. Other familiar names you might expect to see with the Orioles are either gone or injured; plenty of birds were traded away before the July 31 deadline. One guy who is still with them, though, is slugging first baseman Chris Davis, who is winding down one the worst statistical seasons of any big leaguer in modern times. Davis is dead last among qualifiers in pretty much every offensive category and strikes out at a Mike Zunino-like rate of 40%, all for the bargain price of $23 million. And unlike Jones, who is still producing, the Orioles are stuck with Davis for another four years and $92 million.
The Baltimore mound corps has no ace, no closer, and not a lot of experience. Starters Andrew Cashner and Alex Cobb are the old men of the staff at 31 and 30, respectively, and their most successful starter this season has been 25-year-old Dylan Bundy, at 7-13, 5.36. The O's are scheduled to start rookie southpaw Josh Rogers, Cobb, and TBD in this three-game set. Rogers has all of one start to his big-league résumé, a five-inning effort against the Blue Jays on August 28th (win, three earned runs, 85 pitches). Cobb has made eight career starts vs. Seattle (2-4, 7.14 ERA) including one this season (no decision, 5 ER in 42⁄3 IP). The M's counter with Erasmo Ramírez, Wade LeBlanc, and Mike Leake.
|Erasmo Ramírez vs. bal (career)
|rest of team||40||.000||.000||.000||0||1|
|Wade LEBlanc vs. bal (career)
|Mike Leake vs. BAL (career)
Players to Watch
Chris Davis: Twice the AL leader in home runs (53 in 2013, 47 in 2015), the O's inked Davis to a hefty seven-year contract extension prior to 2016. Since then, "Crush"—a play on the nickname of Kevin Costner's character "Crash" Davis in Bull Durham—has posted a batting line of .207/.307/.409 and struck out over 500 times. Oriole fans everywhere have been saying, "Get a hit, Crush. Please, for the love of all that's holy, get a %@#&ing hit."
Jonathan Villar: Once a formidable player with Milwaukee, Villar led the NL in steals and clubbed 19 homers in 2016. But he seemed to lose his on-base skills since then and the Brewers cut bait with him in July, trading him to Baltimore in a deal for Jonathan Schoop. Since 2016, when he posted a .369 OBP, Villar has drawn all of 59 walks in over 800 plate appearances, a 7% rate.
Andrew Jones: We hardly knew ye, Adam. Dealt away from Seattle in the infamous Erik Bedard trade after the '07 season, Jones has been a cornerstone of the Orioles franchise. That figures to change soon, though, as Jones is a free agent come season's end and Baltimore already tried to trade him away in July (Jones exercised his 10-and-5 rights to block the deal). The five-time All-Star is batting above his career numbers and remains a fine defender in center field.
Buck Showalter: Now in his 20th year as a Major League manager (not counting two years "managing" the yet-to-field-a-team Arizona Diamondbacks before they started play in 1998), Showalter is in the final year of his contract and is reportedly considering leaving the pros and becoming the head baseball coach at Mississippi State University, the school he was drafted out of (by the Yankees) in 1977. He has three Manager of the Year awards with three different teams—the Yankees, Rangers, and Orioles—but appears not to be interested in managing another if the Orioles don't bring him back. Showalter, 62, has said his preference would be to transition to a front-office position with Baltimore, and should that not pan out take the job at MSU, which was first offered him in 2008.
Showalter has led his teams to postseason berths five times (four if you don't count the Wild Card game as a true postseason berth), so he clearly has the chops to be successful; the dreadfulness of the Orioles' current season cannot be laid at his feet. That said, he has taken criticism for relying too much on veteran players that are simply not cutting it this year and not playing others, but how much of that is Showalter's thinking and how much is a mandate from above is unclear (Chris Davis' contract alone may be enough to force him into the lineup). He also has a reputation for being too slow to hook a starting pitcher, though he is well-regarded for how he otherwise handles a bullpen.
Legend has it that Showalter was given the nickname "Buck" by minor-league manager Ed Napoleon because of Showalter's tendency to lounge in the clubhouse "buck naked."
John Andreoli: A Mariner property as recently as last month, Andreoli was lost to Baltimore on a waiver claim. The outfielder only played in three games with the Mariners—he made his MLB debut in May, went 1-for-3, and was sent back down until needed again in July—having spent the bulk of 2018 in Triple-A with Tacoma, but has been a regular with the Orioles, playing mostly in left field. He put up good numbers while a member of the Rainiers, reaching base at a nearly-.400 clip, but has yet to show much ability at the big-league level.
|Baltimore Orioles||(1954 - present)|
|World Champions:||1966, 1970, 1983|
|League Champions:||1944, 1969, 1971, 1979|
|Division Titles:||1973, 1974, 1997, 2014|