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Orioles-Nationals series preview: Battle of the Beltways, Act II

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Another installment of the regional rivalry begins tonight in Washington. After losing three to the Nats in Baltimore, the O’s will go up against more great DC pitching.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Baltimore Orioles Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

The O’s will make the short trip down Interstate 95 to meet the Washington Nationals and play in front of some Nats fans that presumably used to cheer for the Orioles. The Nationals (38-32) enter the game tied for second place in the National League Central. The O’s enter the series at 20-50, a cool thirty games below .500. But they are riding a one game winning streak that they will seek to build on. This series marks the road half of the season series between these two clubs.

The O’s still have the all-time series lead in the Battle of the Beltways, going 38-29 since the Nationals’ inception. Washington put a dent in that record earlier this season, when they completed a three game sweep at Camden Yards.

Yesterday the Nationals played a doubleheader against the Yankees, including the finish of a suspended game. We can hope that playing two will have worn the Nats out entering this three game set.

The Nats’ offense has struggled a bit this season. Their 295 runs scored rank 22nd in baseball. Bryce Harper has had somewhat of a disappointing season as he finishes out his contract with Washington. Baseball Reference grades him as being a 0.6 WAR player and his batting average sits at .217. Trey Turner has been a 2.5 WAR player for the Nats and has swiped twenty bags.

Pitching has carried Washington this season, as their staff has posted an ERA of 3.38, good for fifth in the majors. They strike opposing hitters out at a rate of 9.61 per game, ranking fourth in the majors. On the other hand, we have the Orioles, whose hitters strike out very close to one out of every four times to the plate. The Nats starting rotation has been even better, coming in with a 3.20 ERA.

Game 1: Tuesday, 7:05 PM

RHP David Hess (2-3, 4.13) vs. RHP Jefry Rodriguez (0-0, 0.00)

David Hess continues making starts in place of the injured Chris Tillman and continues to hold his own at the major league level. He has managed to go at least six innings in four of his six starts. Hess is coming off one of his two bad starts this season, both of which came against Boston’s explosive offense. He lasted only 3.1 innings and allowed five runs.

One of Hess’s most memorable starts this season came against Washington at Camden Yards. On May 30, he lost a pitchers duel to Max Scherzer despite giving up only one run and four hits in six innings. He’ll look to put up a similar performance against what will hopefully be a more forgiving opponent.

That opponent is Jefry Rodriguez, who is making his first career start. The Nats’ #16 prospect entering the season has thrown 4.2 innings this season, all out of the bullpen on June 3 in relief of the injured Jeremy Hellickson. He is on quite a roll at the minor league level, not having allowed an earned run over his last three starts for AA Harrisburg. His ERA in the minors this season is 3.57 and he’s struck out over a batter per inning.

Game 2: Wednesday, 7:05 PM

RHP Andrew Cashner (2-8, 4.98) vs. LHP Gio Gonzalez (6-3, 3.01)

Andrew Cashner will make his first appearance since June 8 after missing eleven days with a sore back. Despite landing on the disabled list afterwards, his last outing was decent: three runs allowed in six innings at Toronto. Cashner just hasn’t been able to get on a roll this season. His ERA has been at least 4.72 since his April 28 start. He is 3-4 with a 4.04 ERA in his career against Washington. Unfortunately, most of the success against the Nats came at his home ballpark. He owns a 5.08 in eight appearances at Nationals Park.

After finished sixth in the National Cy Young balloting last season, Gio Gonzalez got off to a very strong start. Through May, he was 6-2 with a tidy 2.10 ERA. But in three June starts spanning 16.1 innings he’s allowed twelve runs and has seen his ERA rise by a full run.

The O’s will hope his struggles continue, whereas Gonzalez will return to the same game plan that got him 7.2 shutout innings earlier this season in Baltimore. In a season where the O’s find themselves near the bottom of the rankings in nearly every statistic, they do rank twentieth in team batting against left-pitching with a .234 mark.

Game 3: Thursday, 7:05 PM

RHP Kevin Gausman (3-6, 4.48) vs. RHP Max Scherzer (10-3, 2.06)

Kevin Gausman has flashed his first round talent often this season, but has a mediocre line to show for it. Those looking for positives can point out that his strikeout/walk ratio is up from 2.52 in 2017 to 4.05, a career best, this season. He has fanned at least six batters in four out of his last five starts.

Gausman is coming off a loss to Miami where he did not pitch deep into the game, allowing two runs in 5.2 innings of work. Pitching against the National League has not gone well for Gausman in his career. He owns a 6.40 ERA in sixteen inter-league starts. He’s 3-1 in his career against Washington.

Gausman will need to be on his game on Thursday, because three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer is the opposing pitcher. The 33-year old hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down this season and is on track to win his third consecutive Cy Young. He leads the NL in innings pitched and owns an otherworldly K/9 ratio of 13.6. We have to imagine that a competitor like Scherzer is salivating at the chance to tackle Baltimore’s weak, strikeout-prone offense.

Scherzer will look to improve upon his May 30 performance at Camden Yards where he punched out twelve in eight shutout innings. He has yet to lose a regular season game in Baltimore. We’ll always have the 2014 ALDS.

Poll

How many games will the Orioles win in this series?

This poll is closed

  • 8%
    3 (Orioles sweep)
    (19 votes)
  • 18%
    2
    (44 votes)
  • 41%
    1
    (97 votes)
  • 31%
    0 (Orioles get swept)
    (73 votes)
233 votes total Vote Now