10:10 PM EST, MASN2 – Money Line: Mariners -112, Run Line: 9.5 under 25
A pair of teams desperately clinging to slim hopes of the American League Wild card clash tonight in the Pacific Northwest, as the struggling Seattle Mariners host the Baltimore Orioles in the second meeting of a three-game set from Safeco Field. It’s a case of better late than never, as the Orioles (59-60, 3rd in AL East) have quietly climbed the ranks of the Wild Card ladder, winning eleven of their last seventeen games, pulling two games from the Los Angeles Angels for the final Wild Card. Indeed, Buck Showalter’s charges will be in control of their own destiny heading down the stretch, for they face the Angels immediately after this series with the Mariners, while the New York Yankees (who own the other Wild Card) will be on deck seven more times this season. Baltimore got things started with a bang Monday Night, as they bashed the M’s in an 11-3 blowout victory. This one was over early, folks, as the visiting side crushed six runs in the Second Inning, as Manny Machado (.260 BA, 23 HR, 73 RBI) belted a titanic Grand Slam into the second row of the stadium, granting his team they wouldn’t relinquish. Home Runs from Tim Beckham (.296 BA, 16 HR, 46 RBI) and Seth Smith (.273 BA, 12 HR, 28 RBI), put matters further out of reach, as Kevin Gausman (9-8 5.08 ERA) comfortably took care of business on the Mound; the young Righthander permitted just a pair of runs on six hits over the course of seven solid innings, striking out six batters and walking just one, in what was easily one of his more impressive performances this term. Taking the mound tonight for Showalter and Co. is Wade Miley (6-9, 5.19 ERA), who like the majority of the Orioles’ Rotation, has struggled mightily throughout the campaign. Granted, Baltimore has had a far from imposing stable of arms over the past four years, but for all intents and purposes they have imploded in 2017; thus far, Showalter’s charges rank fourteenth in the American League in Team ERA (4.91) and Runs Allowed (606), thirteenth in both Home Runs (171) and Walks (412) Allowed, and dead last in Hits Allowed (1,116). Furthermore, of the five primary Starters that comprise the Rotation, only Dylan Bundy (12-8, 4.17 ERA) has an ERA lower than 5.00, with none of their number posting a K/BB Ratio over 3.00. While he’s been better of late, Miley has been far from consistent this season, registering a 1.690 WHIP, 10.1 Hits per Nine Innings, 5.1 Walks per Nine Innings, and a miserable 1.57 K/BB Ratio. Control has been the Lefthander’s biggest issue, for no pitcher in the American League has issued more bases on balls than Miley, who has walked a dreadful sixty-nine opponents. With that said, the O’s have gone on to win five out of his last seven starts, with the 30-year old going unbeaten in his last three appearances, yielding no more than two runs on each occasion. When last we saw him, a 7-2 victory over the Oakland Athletics, he permitted just one run on three hits over the duration of seven solid innings, striking out seven batters and walking three, in what was arguably the Lefty’s finest outing this year. In fact, it was the first time in fourteen starts that he lasted seven innings, and just the fifth time all season that he’s reached at least seven strikeouts. Miley does have quite a bit of experience throwing at Safeco Field, given that Baltimore acquired him in a Trade Deadline Deal last year from the Mariners; in eight starts at tonight’s venue from 2014 to 2016, the veteran has gone 3-4 with a 4.94 ERA, with thirty-seven strikeouts in comparison to thirteen walks, allowing twenty-six runs on forty-six hits (eleven home runs) over the course of 47.1 innings, with opponents batting .258 against him.
Meanwhile, the proverbial ship is sinking for the Mariners (59-61, 3rd in AL West), who with last night’s thumping at the hands of the Orioles have now lost five consecutive games, while being leapfrogged by Baltimore in the Wild Card standings. So much of Seattle’s current struggles have been about their decimated Pitching Staff, which has been absolutely ravaged by injuries, with Scott Servais frantically searching for anything that can stop the bleeding. Last night’s embarrassing 11-3 defeat served as a microcosm of their problems of late, as the hosts got tagged eleven runs on a whopping sixteen hits, and to be completely honest it could have been much worse, as the O’s left seven more runners on base. Needless to say, Yovani Gallardo (5-8, 5.84 ERA) had a bad day on the job, serving up eight earned runs on nine hits, including a pair of home runs in just four innings of labor, while Casey Lawrence (0-0, 6.60 ERA) came in failed to fare much better, giving up three more earned runs on seven hits , including two more homers in four innings of his own. Equally as disappointing was that the hosts couldn’t take advantage of their opponent’s own struggling Pitching Staff, as the top of the M’s order collectively went a dismal 4-of-18 from the Plate, with the likes of Robinson Cano (.277 BA, 19 HR, 75 RBI) and Nelson Cruz (.288 BA, 29 HR, 95 RBI) going 2-of-8 with the latter striking out a pair of times against his former team. Servais and Co. continue searching for answers on the Mound, as Andrew Albers (0-0, 0.00 ERA) makes his first appearance for the Mariners, having been called up from their Minor League affiliate a deal struck with the Atlanta Braves. The Lefthander hasn’t seen Major League action since 2016 as a member of the Minnesota Twins, where he was sparingly as a Reliever and a Spot Starter; Albers went without a Decision or Save, logging a 5.82 ERA in just six appearances, proving wildly inconsistent whenever counted upon. Granted, perhaps the time spent in the Minors will help him correct course, but things are absolutely dire in Seattle, who risk falling out of the Wild Card chase altogether if they can’t get some kind of jolt from their Pitching Staff. Just how bad has gotten for Servais and his charges, you ask? Consider the fact that former Cy Young Felix Hernandez (5-4, 4.28 ERA), breakout ace James Paxton (12-3, 2.78 ERA), and the likes of Sam Gaviglio (3-5, 4.62 ERA), Andrew Moore (1-3, 6.34 ERA), and Hisashi Iwakuma (0-2, 4.35 ERA) are all currently languishing on the Disabled List with a variety of ailments, leaving the Rotation decimated and as a result, the Bullpen clearly overtaxed. Hernandez is expected to miss three to four weeks due to bursitis in his Right Shoulder, while Paxton in all likelihood is out just as long with a strained Left Pectoral Muscle. Iwakuma on the other hand has been on the 60-day Disabled List for quite sometime now, and it’s unclear if he’ll even be able to rejoin the Pitching Staff before season’s end. Though they clearly possess more talent in this department than their opponent tonight, they’ve proven nearly as calamitous thanks to all the injuries; Seattle ranks a mediocre Ninth in the American League in Team ERA (4.46), Hits (1,021) and Runs (570) Allowed, but have been extremely prone to giving up the long ball, for no team in the league has been tagged for more Home Runs than the Mariners, yielding 181 thus far.