Orioles-Mariners Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated July 01, 2012
After having just one player at the All-Star game each of the past six seasons, the Baltimore Orioles are sending three to this year's Midsummer Classic. They could get a fourth if Jason Hammel can win over voters this week. Hammel tries to bounce back from his worst outing of the season and pitch his way into the All-Star game when he takes the ball in Monday night's series opener against the Seattle Mariners. Baltimore (42-36) arrives in Seattle having dropped nine of 12, but still holds the AL's second wild-card spot. As a result of its surprising first half, the team will be well-represented at the All-Star game with catcher Matt Wieters, outfielder Adam Jones and closer Jim Johnson all earning selections prior to Sunday's 6-2 loss to Cleveland. It's the first time the Orioles will have more than one All-Star since 2005, when they sent four. Hammel (8-3, 3.29 ERA) could be the fourth this year, as one of five right-handed pitchers on the ballot for the final AL roster spot, decided by fans voting online through Thursday. He has anchored Baltimore's rotation, leading the team in wins and strikeouts (89). "Obviously, it's a tremendous honor just to be in the Final Vote," he told the Orioles' official website. "It would be a nice personal accomplishment, but you still need the team to get to this point." Hammel entered Wednesday's start against the Los Angeles Angels having gone 19 straight innings without allowing an earned run, but that streak came to an abrupt end. He was shelled for eight runs and eight hits in a season-low 3 1-3 innings of a 13-1 loss. He could have an easier time against the Mariners, who have combined for nine runs in their last eight contests. Hammel has done a good job of shutting down Seattle in the past, going 1-0 with a 1.59 ERA in two starts. The Mariners (34-47) lost 2-1 in 10 innings to Boston on Sunday, managing only 20 hits while splitting their four-game series with the Red Sox. Cleanup hitter Jesus Montero is batting .111 with 14 strikeouts in his last 10 contests and has gone 11 games without an RBI. Ichiro Suzuki, however, is hitting .353 in his last 12 games, and is 5 for 7 lifetime against Hammel. The Mariners counter with Hisashi Iwakuma (1-1, 4.75), who is scheduled to make his first major league start. Taking the rotation spot of the injured Kevin Millwood (groin), Iwakuma has primarily been used as Seattle's long reliever. He has gone at least three innings in six of his 14 appearances, including his most recent. After Millwood left Wednesday's game against Oakland with a strained right groin in the third inning, the Japanese right-hander allowed one run, one hit and two walks over 3 2-3 innings but got charged with the Mariners' 2-1 loss. Iwakuma will be facing a Baltimore offense that is having some trouble of its own, averaging 2.5 runs while batting .196 in its last 13 games. Jim Thome went 0 for 4 in his Baltimore debut Sunday, and Wieters is batting .205 in his last 13 contests. Jones has been one bright spot with three straight multihit games, and he hit .591 with a homer and six RBIs against Seattle in 2011. The Orioles went 4-2 against the Mariners last season, but have lost five of their last six games at Safeco Field.
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