Washington Nationals vs. Baltimore Orioles Preview: Beltway Battle Part II
When the two squads met last May in Washington D.C. the entire baseball world was watching after years of ignoring the matchup. The Nationals were rolling early, as many predicted, and the Orioles were playing some of the best baseball in the league to the surprise of almost everyone.
Now, after another full month of baseball, both teams are still among the league's best. The Orioles are 39-30 and in second place behind the New York Yankees, and the Nationals are in first place with a 40-27 record.
Both teams will look to finish interleague play strong by defeating their crosstown rival in this weekend's series.
Beltway Battle Part I Recap
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When the two squads met in the first installment of this season's Battle of the Beltways the O's took the first two games of the three game set before falling to the Nats in game three.
Game one featured a pitchers duel between Jake Arrieta and Edwin Jackson. The O's scored in the top of the first against Jackson but failed to score against Jackson for the rest of his outing. Arrieta only allowed a solo homer over seven innings before turning things over to the Baltimore bullpen which pitched four scoreless innings. Nick Markakis hit a home run to put the O's ahead for good in the eleventh inning.
Game two was much more offensive. The Orioles put up six runs against Nationals' starter Ross Detwiler and Jason Hammel was just good enough to earn the win. The Nats scored five unanswered runs to end the game but fell by a score of six to five.
Game three featured a Nationals' comeback. The O's scored three early runs against Stephen Strasburg but the ace shut the door after the second and even hit a home run as the Nats scored nine unanswered runs to avoid being swept.
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Much like the first series in May, both teams are again fighting the injury bug.
The Nationals are missing former all-star Jayson Werth, who isn't the same player he once was but can still contribute with the stick. Other notables missing include pinch hitter Chad Tracy, everyday catcher Wilson Ramos, reliever Henry Rodriguez and closer Drew Storen.
In short, the Nats are missing their slugging right fielder, their starting catcher, a reliable bench contributor, a hard throwing reliever and a young closer.
Baltimore has their fair share of injuries entering this series as well. Gold Glove winner Nick Markakis is on the DL with a broken hamate bone. Reliever Matt Lindstrom is also out, and the same goes for outfielders Nolan Reimold, Endy Chavez and starting pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada.
So, the O's are missing their on-base machine in right field, a budding star in left field, a dominate relief pitcher, Markakis' replacement in Chavez, and Wada, who was supposed to lead the rotation this summer.
Both teams are missing major pieces, so neither team should count on an advantage due to injuries.
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Game 1: Jordan Zimmerman (3-5) vs. Jason Hammel (7-2)
Game 2: Edwin Jackson (3-4) vs. Wei-Yin Chen (7-2)
Game 3: Ross Detwiler (4-3) vs. Jake Arrieta (3-9)
The Orioles definitely have the advantage in the first two games. Their two best starters get the ball and don't have to match up against Nationals' aces Gio Gonzalez and Stephen Strasburg.
In game one the O's send Jason Hammel to the mound, Hammel has been great for the Orioles and just tossed a one-hit shutout in his most recent start. The Nats counter with Jordan Zimmerman who has been good, but he is no Strasburg.
Game two will probably be a fantastic pitching matchup. Edwin Jackson gets the ball for the Nats and Wei-Yin Chen starts for the O's. Chen has already won seven ball games for the Orioles in his rookie season and Jackson was dominant in his first start this season against the O's. It should be interesting to see if Chen can rebound from his first outing against Washington, which was easily his poorest start of the season.
Game three will see two men who have been shunned to the bullpen only to return shortly thereafter, Jake Arrieta didn't even make an appearance before being put back in the rotation. Arrieta started out great for the O's and many thought he was going to lead the Orioles all season but he has since struggled with the exception of a couple starts.
Ross Detwiler wasn't expected to break spring training in the rotation but found himself in the fifth spot over veteran John Lannen. Detwiler was decent for the Nats before being moved to the pen, but he is now back and will look to rebound from a dreadful start against the Orioles in May.
The pitching matchups should give both teams a chance to win each game but the advantage is with the O's, if only slightly.
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The Orioles nearly set team records for offensive struggles the last series against R.A. Dickey and the New York Mets, only scoring three runs in the series. That series was not consistent with what the Orioles have been doing this season though.
Bryce Harper has been red hot since the O's left Baltimore, his OPS is nearly 1.000 in the games since and the powerful Mike Morse has returned to the lineup. Although, it is no secret the Nats have struggled to score at times this season. That could change at any moment with guys like Ryan Zimmerman and Danny Espinosa not hitting anywhere near where they have in seasons past.
Both teams are missing key hitters, but as it stands right now the O's have a more complete lineup and will have the advantage in this series from an offensive standpoint.
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Game 1: Orioles win 8-3
Jason Hammel won't dominate, but will be good enough as the O's offense explodes after being dormant for the past few days.
Game 2: Nats win 5-4
The normally-lock-down Baltimore bullpen blows a late lead and spoils a quality start by Wei-Yin Chen. Bryce Harper and Danny Espinosa provide the offense for the Nationals in their victory.
Game 3: Orioles win 7-1
The dominant Jake Arrieta shows up on this day, and the O's hit Ross Detwiler hard again. Mark Reynolds has a big day offensively for Baltimore.