It has been a week laced with tumult for the Baltimore Orioles. After a 2-5 performance in two crucial series against division foes Boston and Toronto, the underdog O’s have seen their playoff hopes turn to vapor and it looks like 2023 will be the soonest playoff baseball could potentially return to Camden Yards.
All is not lost, though! The Orioles need just nine wins from their remaining 22 games to clinch their first winning record in six seasons. The likes of Adley Rutschman, Félix Bautista, and Jorge Mateo can finish their breakout seasons on a high note. Additionally, starting Tuesday night, the O’s can gain regional bragging rights by beating the Washington Nationals in the final Beltway Series of 2022.
The struggling Nationals appear to be ripe for the picking, coming into this series fresh off of being swept by the Phillies and having lost five of their last six games overall. You mean to tell me that a team who traded its 23 year old unicorn, future Hall of Famer is struggling?! Balderdash.
Tuesday’s pitching matchup appears a favorable one for the Baltimore Orioles with Dean Kremer slated to face Washington’s Cory Abbott. Kremer returns to his regularly scheduled role after throwing 5.1 innings in relief of the returning Tyler Wells last week against the Blue Jays. The 26 year old Abbott (4.22 ERA/5.96 FIP) is a proper swingman whom the Nats have utilized in both roles; his last two appearances were a 4.1 inning start against the Cardinals and an inning of relief against the Phillies on 9/10. If Abbott struggles early, righty Mason Thompson and former Cub Carl Edwards, Jr. are the freshest bullpen arms and could be used as a bridge to the later innings.
Baltimore Orioles vs. Washington Nationals – Beltway Series Preview
Wednesday’s finale pits the aforementioned Tyler Wells against what’s left of Patrick Corbin. It remains to be seen how far into the game Wells will be allowed to go but if he can manage his pitch count and somehow get through five innings, a win could very well be his considering the opposing pitcher.
Corbin is no longer the guy who merited a nine-figure contract four offseasons ago, which is the best euphemism I could muster to describe his performance. The southpaw ranks in the very bottom percentile of MLB pitchers in expected batting average, expected slugging percentage, and expected ERA. His average exit velocity is in the bottom five percent. Corbin is arguably the least effective starting pitcher in the majors and should be a welcome sight for a struggling Baltimore Orioles offense.
Despite the O’s recent offensive struggles, scoring runs should not be a problem; the Nationals pitching staff is by far the worst in baseball and even make the other teams at the bottom look competent. The second game with Corbin starting would be an inexcusable defeat.
You’d expect Washington’s offense to have cratered after the Juan Soto/Josh Bell trade, but it’s actually been above average since August 1, due in large part to a journeyman who likely wouldn’t have had this opportunity if not for the trade. 1B/OF Joey Meneses, a 30 year old rookie, morphed from AAAA player into the Nationals best hitter seemingly overnight. Since his promotion, Meneses leads the team in average, home runs, slugging, and wOBA.
Nats shortstop CJ Abrams (the headliner of the Soto/Bell deal) is another name to watch during this two game series. Abrams is a joy to watch defensively and any ground ball hit in his vicinity has little chance of escaping his glove. Abrams had been struggling mightily with his bat early in his Nats career as well as during his cameo with the Padres but over his last 45 plate appearances, he’s raked to the tune of a .349/.372/.442 slash line with ten runs scored. It would behoove Orioles pitchers to keep Abrams and his blazing speed off the basepaths as much as possible.
Though the Orioles have struggled over the last week, the Nationals are likely going to finish with over 100 losses and anything other than a two game sweep would be underwhelming, but expect Meneses, Abrams, and the rest of the Nationals to score runs and make the series interesting. Don’t be surprised if the over hits on Wednesday, either.