One of the funniest things that I’ve heard of late was coming out of last month’s initial “Battle of the Beltways” when a friend of mine (who’s a DC fan) told me that the way he sees things Washington kind of won the series given that they scored more runs than the Orioles. Um…no that’s not how it works. However the fact is that we’ll see who scores more runs again this weekend when Washington makes the trek up to Camden Yards to play the Orioles. The Orioles of course come into this series after an off day which came at a good time, following a three-game sweep at the hands of the Mets. Washington comes in on a two-game winning streak after taking two-of-three from Tampa at home.
In a nutshell, Washington has better starting pitching but the Orioles have the better bullpen. With a few exceptions these two teams generally play each other tight, so you can probably give that advantage to the O’s. However if Washington puts a few runs on the board early while the Orioles continue to scuffle, that could easily change. Despite their recent struggles the Birds are also slightly better at the plate (.246 BA as a team vs. .240 for Washington; .309 OBP as a team vs. .306 for Washington). But again, the wild card is that Washington has better starting pitching. That will always shut down good hitting for the most part.
The good news is that the Orioles have a good mix of starters in line for the weekend, starting with Jason Hammel tonight. As you’ll remember, Hammel pitcher a one-hit shutout last Saturday night in Atlanta, and didn’t give up a hit until the seventh inning. His issue tonight is going to be keeping his head in the game. While Hammel didn’t throw a no-no or a perfect game, pitchers have always struggled a bit in their first game back on the bump after tossing a dramatic game like that. The issue for Hammel will be the opponent more so than battling himself. The Nationals’ lineup struggles in the power department but they are excellent clutch hitters. They’re starting to believe in themselves more and more, which they feel can lift them to play above their heads. Of course a part of that is the newly-anointed Ruthian figure in baseball, Bryce Harper. The Ruthian comment may well be a “clown comment, bro,” (sorry, I had to), but he’s a threat at the plate. Perhaps more so on the base paths given that he hustles more than anyone I’ve ever seen, and can often force outfielders into mistakes. Having said that, Harper was 4-for-12 with two RBI against the Birds in May; he’s gone 5-for-28 in his last seven games overall however.
Washington will counter Hammel with Jordan Zimmerman. While Zimmerman and his 2.92 ERA have been superior this year, he’s 0-1 in his last four starts. Zimmerman lost his only other start at Camden Yards, which came last year. In a 1-1 tie Vladimir Guerrero hit an 8th inning homer to lift the O’s up over Washington. To go back to Washington’s starting pitching in general, they lead the league with a staff ERA of 3.00. Washington is also coming off of a series with Tampa that seemed to have more drama than your average episode of “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.” (The “tit-for-tatness” in that series was covered here on Birds Watcher earlier this week.) They still might be a bit ruffled up in the wake of the pine tar incident, which can break either way. They certainly used it to their advantage in the final two games of their series with Tampa, but if it causes over-agressiveness in a young team that’s not always a good thing.
I will be interested to see how Davey Johnson is received at Camden Yards this weekend. Johnson of course was the manager of the last Oriole winning season in 1997, and is still considered a beloved figure in Baltimore. Unfortunately for this weekend he’s also the manager of the Washington Nationals. I remember in 2006 when the two teams played in Baltimore for the first time; Washington manager (and former Oriole great) Frank Robinson was featured on Diamondvision between innings and the Camden faithful gave him a standing ovation as he came out of the dugout tipping his cap to the fans. I’d love to see a similar scene involving Davey Johnson at some point this weekend. With all of this said, my recommendation to the Orioles would be to win each game by a sizable margin this weekend so as not to allow people such as the above-mentioned fool from claiming that the wrong team won the series!
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