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Game 40: Orioles (25-14) @ Nationals (23-15), 7:05pm

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Will it be Good Jake or Bad Jake tonight? We need Good Jake to shut down a mostly weak Nationals lineup.  (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
Will it be Good Jake or Bad Jake tonight? We need Good Jake to shut down a mostly weak Nationals lineup. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
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Dear Nationals fan,

Though you could not beat feet fast enough to jump on board the bandwagon with Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg, though you perhaps listened to all of the feckless national media personalities whose answer to the question, "Is there any hope for Orioles fans?" was to start rooting for the Nationals, it seems that you have been outmaneuvered. For the first time in its history, the Battle of the Beltways matters. The Baltimore Orioles are putting their first place in the American League East on the line, and our trendy neighbors to the south look to keep apace in the National League East, as they enter play today a half-game behind Atlanta.

What all of this means is that if you have ever been inclined to try to keep loyalties to both teams, the time for that has come to an end. There is not going to be any, "Well, I'll root for the Orioles when they're good and for the Nationals when they're good." There is no, "They're both from the Mid-Atlantic, so I can root for them both, right?" No. There is no more of, "One's in the American League and one's in the National League and they hardly ever play one another anyway." There are stakes now and you must choose.

You may be tempted still to choose the new hotness, the team with the young phenoms and the preseason national media buzz and the kid who practically paints "Douchebag" onto his eye black in silver - douche underneath the left eye and bag underneath the right. You may be tempted to forsake the team of your father and your grandfather and instead go with the team of the transient sycophants. You may be tempted to turn your back on the nearly 60 years of Orioles tradition in favor of manufactured hype that's as pre-packaged and fake as anything else that comes out of the district that team calls home. Choose wisely.

Something else that you might want to remember is this: the land now known as the District of Columbia was once a part of Maryland. You've been doing a nice job of taking care of it for us - well, if you even live in DC proper, that is. I've got to admit, Nationals fan, I have this unfortunate feeling that you probably live in Northern Virginia and a couple of years ago you were a Yankees fan and a couple of years before that you were a Red Sox fan. We will be back for it, is what I am telling you. In fact, we are starting the reclamation tonight.

Birdland cometh, and all the Natitude in all the world cannot stop it.

Sincerely,

Eat More Esskay

Despite the above, this might actually be a tough and interesting series. Nats pitching hasn't been any kind of slouch. Tonight we will see Edwin Jackson, who, yes, signed with the Nationals in the offseason. The well for that joke has run dry. I am officially proclaiming it. Any who persist in perpetuating the "Edwin Jackson signed with the Nationals?" joke will be revealing himself or herself to be a humorless cad, and those who do so with deliberate irony will be making a similar proclamation of lack of humor. You have been notified.

Jake Arrieta starts for the Orioles. He is coming off of his shortest start of the year and, in terms of earned runs surrendered, the worst start of his career. Consistency has not been the thing for the O's Opening Day starter. If we see the pitcher who blanked New York for eight innings, that'll be a good sign tonight. If we see the pitcher who fell apart completely in the 5th inning against Los Angeles, then despite my swagger it is likely Natitude will reign supreme at least in the opening game of the series.

The best hitter on the Nats so far is Adam LaRoche. What the heck? Seriously? No joke: he's batting .336/.424/.600 with seven home runs, which leads the Nats. LaRoche is rocking a BABIP of .402 and his career on balls in play is .313 - so it's probably safe to peg the 31-year old for some regression, which doesn't mean he won't continue hitting if Arrieta's off his game tonight. I just looked at the stat lines of the rest of the Nats hitters and, other than Jayson Werth, it's kind of a mess. So hopefully Jake doesn't suck tonight. Seriously, Jake: please don't suck tonight.


Lineup

BALTIMORE ORIOLES WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Xavier Avery - LF Ian Desmond - SS
J.J. Hardy - SS Roger Bernadina - LF
Nick Markakis - RF Ryan Zimmerman - 3B
Adam Jones - CF Adam LaRoche - 1B
Matt Wieters - C Bryce Harper - RF
Wilson Betemit - 3B Danny Espinosa - 2B
Chris Davis - 1B Rick Ankiel - CF
Robert Andino - 2B Jesus Flores - C
Jake Arrieta - P Edwin Jackson - P