Battle of the Beltway: Baltimore Orioles vs. Washington Nationals Preview

Jonathan Ty LangCorrespondent IMay 17, 2012

Battle of the Beltway: Baltimore Orioles vs. Washington Nationals Preview

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    For the first time since the Nationals arrived in Washington the Beltway Series with the Baltimore Orioles is relevant, and most consider it the premier series this weekend in baseball.

    Both the O's and the Nats sit at the top of their divisions despite injuries and playing in tough divisions. For the first time ever, Baltimore and Washington will meet in a series when both teams are serious playoff contenders.

    The baseball culture in both cities has been changed thanks to veteran managers Buck Showalter in Baltimore and former Orioles' skipper Davey Johnson in Washington. Both front offices have pushed all the right buttons—-with the exceptions of the Jayson Werth and Tsuyoshi Wada contracts—over the past few seasons to build exciting rosters capable of competing day in and day out.

    All of baseball is taking notice as these two up-and-coming clubs meet this weekend in D.C., and here is a look at what factors will play a role on this weekend series.

Injuries

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    Both teams are currently decimated by injuries, which makes the success of both teams even more surprising considering the star power sidelined on each team.

    The Nationals are missing outfielders Jayson Werth and Michael Morse, starting catcher Wilson Ramos, and relief pitchers Drew Storen and Brad Lidge. All-star third baseman Ryan Zimmerman also spent time on the DL this season.

    Baltimore has had their own issues. All-star second baseman Brian Roberts is still sidelined with concussion symptoms and third baseman Mark Reynolds is also on the DL. Also missing is budding star Nolan Reimold, who carried the Orioles' offense the first few weeks of the season.

    Starting pitchers Zach Britton, who the O's were counting on to lead the rotation, and Tsuyoshi Wada are both out with Wada gone for the year. Dominant late-inning reliever Matt Lindstrom is also on the DL at the moment.

    Since both teams are so beat up, injuries shouldn't give either team a clear advantage.

Pitching Matchups

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    Game 1: Jake Arrieta (2-4) vs. Edwin Jackson (1-1)

    Game 2: Jason Hammel (4-1) vs. Ross Detwiler (3-2)

    Game 3: Wei-Yin Chen (4-0) vs. Stephen Strasburg (3-1)

    The Orioles will send out their three most consistent starters this upcoming series. With the exception of a couple outings, Arrieta has been really good for Baltimore. He shut out the Yankees a few starts back.

    Hammel will go for the O's in game two and he has been excellent all season and appears to be recovering quickly from a knee injury.

    In game three the Orioles will send Chen who is yet to give up more than three earned runs in any start this season. Most recently, he dealt seven innings of two-run ball against the Yankees.

    The rotation has been carrying the Nationals all season and much of the same will be expected this weekend against Baltimore.

    Jackson will go in game one. He has had two less-than-stellar outings but other than those appearances has been really great for the Nats.

    Detwiler has been a pleasant surprise for Washington pitching out of the fifth spot in the rotation. His ERA is 2.75 through seven starts so far this summer.

    The Nats will finish the series with their ace, Strasburg, on the mound. Strasburg got beat up in his last start against the lowly Padres, but he has been one of the best pitchers in baseball so far this season and is fully recovered from Tommy John surgery.

    The edge in the pitching match ups goes to the Nationals but just slightly. Sometimes when these AL lineups match up with NL arms, big numbers can be produced. But these Nationals' pitchers can deal.

Lineups

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    At the moment, the Orioles lineup is clearly more productive. The O's are fourth in the AL in OPS at .760. The Nationals have an OPS of .701, which is good for seventh in the NL.

    Injuries play a role in the Nationals' struggles to score runs, but the Orioles have had those injuries also and have been able to score with some of the heavy hitting teams in the AL.

    Youngster Bryce Harper has added a boost to the Nationals' lineup but his production doesn't help Washington gain the advantage over an Orioles lineup containing hot hitting Adam Jones and All-Star Matt Wieters.

Prediction

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    Game 1: Orioles win 7-3

    The Orioles will get to Edwin Jackson early, and Jake Arrieta bounces back from his bad start against Tampa Bay to pick up his third win.

    Game 2: Orioles win 4-2

    Jason Hammel continues to dominate, and Ross Detwiler is good but loses this pitching duel.

    Game 3: Nationals win 6-1

    Stephen Strasburg dominates, and the Nats hand Wei-Yin Chen his first loss of the season. Strasburg strikes out 11 in eight innings.