The Battle of the Beltways has never exactly been a running joke to this point around the league, however I suspect that the NY and Chicago teams often looked at it as an awkward stepsister of sorts. After 36K+ excited fans jammed Nationals Park in DC last night, maybe some of those people aren’t laughing any longer. I suppose that the records of the two teams might also have something to do about that, as the O’s and Washington Nationals are well over .500.
Over the past few weeks this Oriole team has needed 17 innings to win a game, and then 15 innings the other night. This time around the guys got some extra time off; they only needed 11 innings to do their jobs. However first thing’s first…Jake Arrieta was a bulldog out on the mound. He was on the money all night painting the plate with his fastball. Coming off of two poor outings, Arrieta needed a good one to get back on track. That’s exactly what he got; Arrieta’s line: 7 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 9 K. Obviously the one run was a sixth-inning Ian Desmond home run, which was the only bad pitch he made all night. I’ve also noticed that Arrieta’s curve ball has been much improved this season, and it was used very effectively last night in terms of mixing up his pitches and keeping hitters guessing what was coming next.
Unfortunately for Arrieta, Washington’s starter Edwin Jackson was equally as good. With the exception of Adam Jones’ RBI-single in the first inning, he stymied Oriole bats all night for the most part. In my opinion the Nationals probably have better starting pitching than the O’s, while the Orioles get the nod on offense and in the ‘pen. Once Jackson left after eight innings we got to see Buck Showalter managing the team in true National League style. You really have to think twice about when you’re pinch-hitting and who, because with the pitcher’s turn coming around in the order you want to use your bullets wisely. Showalter used Nick Johnson to match up with Sean Burnett. While Johnson got on base he was stranded, yet it illustrates the behind the seams manner in which managers have operate in the National League. I did find it interesting that Showalter didn’t use Ryan Flaherty as a pinch runner for third baseman Wilson Betemit in the tenth. I figured that Flaherty could play third base, and he had more speed than Betemit. The Orioles didn’t push a run across so it’s almost beside the point I suppose. (Flaherty came in at third as a defensive replacement in the last of the 11th.)
Of the two teams, the Orioles by far have a better ‘pen. That’s important when you get into an extra inning game, because the bullpen is the deciding factor. Washington’s relievers pitched very well with one exception. On a 2-2 count Ryan Mattheus thought Nick Markakis was going to be sitting on a fastball, Instead he offered up a breaking ball that Markakis promptly deposited into the club level seats in the outfield, which put the Birds ahead 2-1. After working three consecutive days, Buck Showalter tried to give Jim Johnson a rest by bringing in Pedro Strop. Ian Desmond grounded into a double play after pinch hitter Steve Lombardozzi was hit by a pitch. Roger Bernadina struck out to end the…whoa, hold on a moment! Strop was charged with a wild pitch, and Bernadina reached first base safely. He went to second on Ryan Zimmerman’s single, which brought the home-standing Nats fans to their feet. Alas the rally was short-lived, as Adam LaRoche grounded out on a comebacker to Strop to end the game.
Every pitch counted in this game, and I think for the first time the O’s and Nats got to see what NY’s subway series was like in a sense. As I looked out over the grandstand at Nationals Park the atmosphere was electric. It’s tough to be totally accurate, however in an educated guess I’d put the number of Oriole fans at around 13K of the announced crowd of 36K+. I felt that the Orioles did have a distinct advantage as the game went into extra innings first off because their bullpen is stronger. However the Birds have been in extras a lot this year, and that experience shouldn’t be undervalued.
The series continues tonight at 7:15 PM before a national television audience on FOX. Nationals’ play-by-play man Bob Carpenter will slide into the FOX booth, where he’ll be joined by former Oriole Bill Ripken (currently of MLB Network). Jason Hammel will be opposed by Ross Detweiler of the Nationals, in what should be another great pitching matchup. Hammel of course is still partially recovering from knee soreness, and as a result was unable to go deep into his last start against the Yankees. After yet another extra inning game, the Orioles are probably looking for Hammel to at least get into the seventh tonight. However I felt like Buck Showalter managed the bullpen fairly well last night, so I’m not sure that anyone is overworked per se. Speaking of which kudos to the much-maligned Kevin Gregg, who shut Washington down in the 10th inning last night and ended up getting the win. One has to hope that the Orioles bring that same bulldog mindset to the park tonight before a national television audience.
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