First off, thanks to anyone who read the “joint column” that I posted with Aaron Somers of District On Deck this morning! Our plan is to publish a similar piece prior to the series next month at Camden Yards as well. Let me also say that I’m not a “Chevy guy” (see the title), but this is a play on words based on a popular commercial featuring Prince Fielder. I thought it was appropriate given that baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet’s are considered “all-American.” With the Orioles in Washington DC playing the Washington Nationals this weekend, I felt it sent a good message!
The O’s of course are coming off of a quick mini-series sweep of the Kansas City Royals. The Birds defeated Kansas City 5-3 yesterday behind a great effort by Brian Matusz and some timely Adam Jones hitting. Earlier this week I was on Ricky Keeler’s (from Yanks Go Yard) podcast talking Orioles/Yankees, and I said that Buck Showalter seems to use a differnt lineup everyday. Ironically that seems to be to the Orioles’ benefit because it keeps other teams on their toes, and it gives Buck Showalter a lot of flexibility in terms of who plays where and when. Last year when the Orioles went to National League ballparks for interleague play I remember wondering how Showalter would make up for the potential loss of power with Vladimir Guerrero being the everyday DH. While the Orioles lead the majors in home runs this season is also about getting on base. The fact is that the Orioles can create base runners with Wilson Betemit playing third, Chris Davis at first, Ryan Flaherty pinch hitting, or any other combination.
The concern offensively of course is that Jake Arrieta is going to have to grab a bat and hit in the order tonight. For the record Arrieta is 1-for-7 lifetime at the plate, with an RBI, a walk and two strike outs. That’s a feature of interleague play that the Orioles (along with the rest of the American League) will have to accept. However you never know what’s going to happen when pitchers hit; last season we were treated to Zach Britton’s first career home run in Atlanta, and in 2008 reliever Danys Baez plated the go-ahead run for the O’s in Washington on a swinging bunt. The O’s would love to see something similar out of Arrieta tonight.
More importantly for Arrieta will be getting back on track after two poor outings in a row. He’ll be facing a Washington Nationals‘ lineup that’s somewhat similar to the Orioles’ own in that they feel they can beat anyone at anytime. Washington’s happy to have Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche back from injuries, and of course they have the potent bat of Bryce Harper. Ideally Arrieta will need to keep the ball on the ground in order to keep his team in the game, however that’s easier said than done against a team who’s lead off hitter (Ian Desmond) appears to be a bit of a slugger as well. Arrieta’s success or failure comes more from behind the seams than it does from his arm. If he can get ahead in counts and not let the hitters dictate how the at-bat is going to go, he’ll have a much better chance at success.
But let’s not kid ourselves; Washington’s not the only team in the park that’s seeing success at the plate. The “Fighting Showalters” have shown the propensity to do what’s been lacking in recent years, and that’s get the timely hit. This is a team that will never give up until the last out is recorded, and Washington starter Edwin Jackson should be put on notice of that fact. On one hand, the O’s probably aren’t looking forward to seeing Washington’s starting rotation this weekend. However are Washington’s starters really looking forward to seeing the likes of Jones, Wieters, Markakis, and even Robert Andino?
I touched on this a bit this morning in the joint column, however this is a huge series for this region. I don’t think that either franchise, or MLB themselves could have asked for much more than the records these two teams are bringing into this series. In the past the two sides have played for local bragging rights, which more than anything else is something for fans on both sides to talk about. However this time around it’s going to be different. If anything keeping the season going at the current pace is on the line on both sides, which quite frankly is more important than local bragging rights. MASN, which covers both teams, will mix their broadcast booth again this year with Jim Hunter and Mike Bordick from the Orioles’ side, and Bob Carpenter and F.P. Santangelo from the Nats’ side. Bordick and Santangelo will offer color commentary for the entire game(s), while Carpenter and Hunter will split the play-by-play duties. Both teams’ pre/post-game shows will be produced separately, with the Orioles’ channel being MASN2. FOX will televise Saturday night’s game on national television, which again speaks to the fact that this is a huge series with two up and coming teams. The above-mentioned Bob Carpenter will handle the play-by-play duties for FOX, with former Oriole Bill Ripken sliding in to do color commentary. Interesting duo, but what else should fans expect for a series of this magnitude in this region?!
Put this in the “for what it’s worth category” I suppose. There are several other local/regional rivalry series’ going on this weekend around the league, including: White Sox @ Cubs, Rangers @ Astros, and A’s @ Giants. However I’d challenge any of those to live up to the excitement of the Battle of the Beltways this year!
Follow me on Twitter @DomenicVadala