5 Reasons We're Headed for an Orioles-Nationals 'Beltway Series'
Photo courtesy beltwaysportsblog.com
The Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles are both in action on Wednesday, with both teams tied up at one game apiece in their respective series.
Baltimore may have a bit of a tougher road than their NL counterpart, now playing the rest of their ALDS series in Yankee Stadium. The Nationals, meanwhile, will take on the Cardinals for at least two games in the comfort of their home surroundings.
The Orioles last went to the World Series 29 years ago, while the Nationals are looking to make the first appearance in franchise history.
Will destiny step in and give baseball a "Beltway Series"?
Here are five reasons why it could very well happen.
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Baltimore Orioles closer Jim Johnson put out a stinker on Sunday in Game 1 of the ALDS against the New York Yankees. Johnson gave up five runs in one-third of an inning, allowing the Yankees to take the opening game, 7-2.
That won't happen again.
Johnson and the Orioles bullpen has been lights-out all year long, clearly the strength of the Orioles club during the regular season.
Call it jitters, call it whatever you want—Johnson got his stinker out of the way with. Now, Troy Patton, Brian Matusz, Darren O'Day and the rest of the 'pen can get back to doing what they've been doing all season long: shutting the door.
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There may be no team in the postseason with a bench as deep as the Washington Nationals'.
The Nationals' pinch-hitters led the majors with a .288 batting average, and they contributed 61 RBI—an astounding figure for the late innings.
Experience will play a major role in the late innings, and the Nationals certainly have that covered.
The combination of Jesus Flores, Tyler Moore, Steve Lombardozzi, Chad Tracy and Roger Bernadina will wreak havoc throughout these playoffs. Moore has already made his mark, providing a clutch two-run single in the eighth inning of Game 1 to give the Nats a 3-2 lead and an eventual win.
If the bench continues to contribute the way it did during the regular season, Washington could have more to look forward to than a presidential election.
Orioles' Youth: They're Simply Unafraid
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There's a lot to be said about young ballplayers. First and foremost, they have no fear.
The Baltimore Orioles are loaded with players who have absolutely zero playoff experience. Jim Johnson, Adam Jones, Wei-Yin Chen, Robert Andino, Matt Wieters, Troy Patton—to name a few. None of them are battle-tested in the playoffs.
Yet here they are, giving the New York Yankees—perennial postseason visitors—all they can handle.
All season long, the Orioles have defied the odds. Their Pythagorean record suggests they should be nowhere near the playoffs, let alone participating in them.
This is a team with no fear and with nothing to lose. After all, no one thought for a moment they would be here anyway.
The Bryce Harper Factor
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So far in the 2012 postseason, Washington Nationals center fielder Bryce Harper has yet to show up.
The teenaged prodigy is 1-for-10 with six strikeouts and has looked badly over-matched at the plate.
However, the 19-year-old star has been one of the biggest stories of the season. He and fellow rookie Mike Trout took the majors by storm in late April, sending a message to baseball that the new young guns were in town.
Harper has been battling a high fever over the past few days and has been taking antibiotics. It's more likely that that affected him more than postseason jitters.
Harper was a force in September, hitting .330 with seven home runs. That's more likely the Harper that fans will see for the rest of the postseason.
If the antibiotics do their job, the real Harper should once again emerge. Factor in his offense, and the Nationals could very well be looking at extending their season just a wee bit longer.
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I know, you're probably thinking what a lame reason this is.
But considering the craziness that has defined the 2012 MLB season, is it really out of the question?
We have the Baltimore Orioles, a team that suffered through 14 straight losing seasons. We also have the Washington Nationals, who posted their first winning record since moving from Montreal. The franchise hasn't even sniffed the playoffs in 31 years.
The Nationals fought through injuries to key players—Michael Morse, Jayson Werth, Drew Storen, Ian Desmond—and they're marching through the postseason without the uber-talented Stephen Strasburg.
The Orioles simply defied logic and the opinions of so-called experts in gaining entry into the postseason.
I don't know, pretty much seems like fate to me.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.