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Orioles-Nationals series preview: The Battle of the Beltways returns

The other team that plays on MASN travels up from the nation’s capital to play a quick two-game set at Camden Yards.

Washington Nationals v Baltimore Orioles Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

The Orioles rebuild is on the upswing, so much so that they can now enter some matchups with the reasonable expectation that they will win. These are indeed crazy times that we live in!

It has been a predictably difficult season for the Washington Nationals. They were major sellers at last season’s trade deadline, and then didn’t do an awful lot over the winter to replenish the roster. As a result, they enter this series with a 24-46 record, the second-worst mark in the majors.

The lineup is not the problem. Washington ranks 15th in MLB in runs scored (289), 12th in on-base percentages (.319), and 21st in slugging percentage (.380). It isn’t an elite unit by at stretch, but it’s solid, and much better than the team’s overall record would suggest.

Juan Soto is having a down season by his standards (.218/.367/.440), but he is still productive. His 14 home runs lead the team, and his 18.3% walk rate is the second-best in baseball. Josh Bell is crushing it in his second season with the Nats. He leads the team in batting average (.294), on-base (.378), and slugging percentage (.476). Old friends Nelson Cruz and Maikel Franco are here as well. Cruz has been solid (101 wRC+), especially for a 41-year-old. Franco (0.1 fWAR, -0.3 bWAR) has been, uh, well, not quite as good.

It’s the pitching that has gone off the rails a bit for the Nationals. Their 5.28 ERA and 4.88 FIP are both the worst in MLB. Their starters have been particularly bad with a 5.97 ERA, 0.60 worse than any other group, although the bullpen isn’t much to write home about either.

Erasmo Ramírez and Steve Cishek are tied for the most innings in relief at 28.2 on the season. Ramirez is a multi-inning guy that doesn’t miss bats (5.97 K/9). Cishek has a walks problem (4.40 BB/9). Tanner Rainey (11.14 K/9) and Kyle Finnegan (10.38 K/9) are the strikeout artists, each doing so with a fastball that sits above 95 mph.

Injuries have also played a role in how poorly the Nationals have performed this season. Stephen Strasburg has pitched in just one game, and it remains to been seen if he will play again this year. Joe Ross and Carter Kieboom have already been shut down for the season following Tommy John surgeries. And you may be disappointed to know that familiar faces Hunter Harvey and Josh Rogers will both miss this series as well.

Game 1: Tuesday, June 21st, 7:05 p.m., MASN

TBD vs. Erick Fedde (4-5, 4.88 ERA)

Brandon Hyde admitted on Sunday that he had no clue who was going to pitch the first game of this series. There has been speculation that DL Hall could make his big league debut here. He would be on regular rest and has eye-popping strikeout numbers (66 strikeouts in 38.1 innings) down on the farm this year. But he has also made it through five full innings only once and is walking 5.28 batters per nine innings. There is no reason for the team to rush him.

Depending on how he is feeling, Jordan Lyles could start here. He was scheduled to go on Sunday, but a stomach virus turned that into a bullpen day instead. It could be asking a lot for him to rebound just two days later. If not Hall of Lyles, perhaps they ask Tyler Wells to pitch on normal rest. Beyond that, the options are limited.

Fedde has been one of Washington’s better starters this season. Some of that may be luck, though. His home run per fly ball rate (10.6%) is the lowest of his career, which has limited him to 1.01 home runs allowed per nine innings, also a career low. Considering he is giving up more fly balls than ever before, it feels like a house of cards. On top of that he has struggled with walks (4.45 BB/9). He possesses a five-pitch mix, but it’s mostly sinker, curveball, and cutter. His velocity is down over 1 mph on the sinker compared to 2021.

Game 2: Wednesday, June 22nd, 7:05 p.m., MASN

TBD vs. Patrick Corbin (3-9, 6.59 ERA)

This would be Wells’s turn in the rotation. The off day on Monday means he would be working on an extra day of rest following his June 16 outing against the Blue Jays, where he allowed one run on 86 pitches over six innings. At 59.2 innings on the year, Wells has already surpassed how much he pitched in relief last year. The Orioles likely want to give him extra rest where possible.

If Wells moves up to Tuesday, then perhaps Lyles gets back into the rotation here. After that it would probably require a promotion from Norfolk with Spenser Watkins being the likely solution. He last pitched on June 17, so this would be normal rest for him. He hasn’t appeared in the big leagues since May 22, when he exited without recording an out following an injury.

Corbin has been dreadful for the Nationals, although he has improved since his ERA peaked at 11.20 back on April 22. He has allowed the most hits (97) and most earned runs (51) in all of baseball across 69.2 innings of work. The southpaw has shown reverse splits with lefties teeing off on him to the tune of a .382/.455/.603 slash line so far this season.

Poll

How many games will the Orioles win in this series against the Nationals?

This poll is closed

  • 5%
    0 (get swept)
    (11 votes)
  • 36%
    1
    (77 votes)
  • 58%
    2 (do the sweeping)
    (123 votes)
211 votes total Vote Now