Opposite dugout: Mariners, once in first in AL West, now trying to stay relevant

MarinersLogo.jpgManager: Scott Servais (1st season)

Record: 39-39

Last 10 games: 3-7

Who to watch: 2B Robinson Cano (.305/.360/.548 with 19 HR, 54 RBIs), DH/RF Nelson Cruz (.280 with 20 HR, 53 RBIs), 3B Kyle Seager (15 HR,49 RBIs), RHP Taijuan Walker (3-6, 3.45 ERA), RHP Steve Cishek (18 saves, 2.55 ERA)

Season series vs. Orioles: 2-1

Pitching probables:

June 30: RHP Kevin Gausman vs. RHP Taijuan Walker, 10:10 p.m., MASN2
July 1: RHP Chris Tillman vs. LHP Wade LaBlanc, 10:10 p.m., MASN2
July 2: RHP Tyler Wilson vs. LHP James Paxton, 10:10 p.m., MASN
July 3: TBD vs. RHP Hisashi Iwakuma, 4:10 p.m., MASN2

Inside the Mariners:

When the Mariners took two of three games from the Orioles at Camden Yards in mid-May, they were battling for first place in the American League West and left Baltimore with a 1 1/2-game lead in the division. But a combination of the Rangers catching fire and the Mariners battling through inconsistency and some injury problems has altered the landscape in the AL West, where the Rangers now hold a 11 1/2-game lead over the third-place Mariners, who will have to fight to stay on the right side of .500 and in contention for a wild card spot. For a team that's lost 12 of 17 games, that's been a challenge.

The Mariners continue to slug a lot of home runs - they have 113 homers, good for third in the majors - and ex-Oriole Nelson Cruz is still doing a lot of damage, leading Seattle with 20 longballs. Second baseman Robinson Cano is slashing .330/.374/.487 in June with 19 homers and 54 RBIs for the season, and third baseman Kyle Seager has chipped in 15 homers and 49 RBIs. But injuries have hurt the Mariners, who have lost shortstop Ketel Marte (sprained thumb), center fielder Leonys Martin (strained hamstring) and right-hander Felix Hernandez (strained calf) for extended periods, along with several members of their bullpen. Marte and Martin are back, but Hernandez could be out until after the All-Star break. First baseman Adam Lind feasts on Orioles pitching; he has a lifetime .292/.355/.461 slash line with 15 homers and 52 RBIs versus the Birds.

Thursday night starter Taijuan Walker left his last two starts with right foot tendinitis, the latest in a series of nagging injuries that have plagued him this season. His 3.80 ERA in June is much better than his 4.91 mark in May, and he's coming off a five-inning outing at Boston on June 19 where he allowed six hits and a walk over five scoreless innings. The right-hander has been prone to the home run ball, allowing 14 in 75 2/3 innings this year, and is 0-1 with a 5.52 ERA in three lifetime starts against the Orioles. The Mariners acquired left-hander Wade LeBlanc, Friday's scheduled starter, in a June 22 trade with the Blue Jays. He's made one start with his new team, throwing six shutout innings of three-hit ball against the Cardinals on June 24 in a no-decision. Before that, he was 7-2 with a 1.71 ERA in 14 starts for Toronto's Triple-A Buffalo affiliate. His only game against the Orioles came on June 18, 2010 for the Padres, and he checked the O's on a run and seven hits over 6 2/3 innings in a no-decision. Lefty James Paxton, Saturday night's starter, has been piling up the strikeouts: 41 in 34 2/3 innings, and limiting the homers, allowing only three. He's gone at least six innings in four of his six starts this season, but was roughed up for five runs on eight hits in five innings in his last start against the Cardinals on June 26. Righty Hisashi Iwakuma starts Sunday, and had his way with the Birds last Aug. 12 in Seattle, throwing a no-hitter. Iwakuma posted a 4.18 ERA in five June starts, but has logged at least six innings in eight of his last nine starts. He's 1-2 with a 2.51 ERA in four career starts against Baltimore, and 10-4 with a 3.46 ERA in his career in July.

Seattle's bullpen has been both good and bad this season, as the Mariners' 12-13 relief record attests, and its 3.27 ERA is the seventh-best in baseball. Steve Cishek is a mixed bag - he's got a 2-4 record,a 2.55 ERA and has saved 18 games with four blown saves.

Gallardo gets to take his hacks again in series fi...
Orioles and Padres lineups

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