Two close geographic neighbors with two very different stories going on right now. The Washington Nationals are playing for pride at this point, while the Orioles could clinch the AL East as early as Wednesday if things go right. (They’ll need to sweep the Nationals and for the Rays to lose one game against the Boston Red Sox.)
It’s been a steep fall for the 2019 World Champions, who are still reportedly seeking new ownership (though the sale has been paused through this season). Though they’ve added young talent, including 22-year-old shortstop CJ Abrams, outfielders Victor Robles and Lane Thomas, and onetime top pitching prospect Mackenzie Gore, Robles and Gore are on the shelf right now, Robles with a lingering back issue and Gore temporarily sidelined with a finger blister. And their pitching staff has been terrible, with the fourth-highest ERA in baseball (5.01) next to Kansas City, Oakland and Colorado, and the most homers allowed in the league.
The last time these two teams met was back on April 18-19, also for a two-game mini-series. The Birds swept those two games and shut out the Nationals behind Dean Kremer (a 1-0 win) and Kyle Bradish (a 4-0 victory).
This series the Orioles are sending out their presumptive postseason one-two punch: right hander Kyle Bradish, the team’s best pitcher all year, gets the Game 1 start, and rookie Grayson Rodriguez, who’s been their best hurler in the second half, starts Game 2.
Game 1: Tuesday, September 26, 6:35, MASN
RHP Kyle Bradish (11-7, 3.01 ERA) vs. RHP Josiah Gray (8-12, 4.00 ERA)
Despite a rare loss on Sept. 14 to Tampa Bay, Bradish has been the picture of consistency in the Orioles rotation all year, and his last seven starts are no different: he’s 4-1 with a 2.51 ERA in that stretch, plus a 0.88 WHIP. He may not be on most people’s shortlist for postseason hardware, but he’s quietly become this team’s ace. His last time out, Bradish shut out Houston over six innings while striking out nine with a nasty slider.
Josiah Gray, acquired by the Nats in 2021 as part of the blockbuster Max Scherzer-Trea Turner trade, has put together the best season of his young career, although the numbers aren’t eye-popping: he has a 4.00 ERA and a rather inflated 1.47 WHIP. Gray has cut down on hits this year but his walks are up (4.59 BB/9) and he’s missing fewer bats than in his first two seasons (8.00 K/9). Over his last seven, he’s struggled to a 1-3 record and 5.81 ERA. A patient Orioles lineup should be able to take advantage.
Game 2: Wednesday, September 26, 6:35. MASN
RHP Grayson Rodriguez (6-4, 4.4 ERA) vs. LHP Patrick Corbin (10-14, 5.13 ERA)
Grayson Rodriguez has found a higher gear at just the right time. Over his last seven starts, he’s 4-1 with a 2.13 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP. On Sept. 21, he held the Guardians to two runs over five innings, and the time before was the most dominant start of his big league career, eight innings of shutout baseball against the Rays that helped snap a four-game slide and salvage the season split against Tampa Bay.
About the best thing that can be said about Patrick Corbin’s 2023 season is that it’s not 2022. Last year, Corbin was one of the worst pitchers in the league (6-19, 6.31 ERA). So while shaving a full run off the ERA is certainly an improvement, he’s still allowing over five and a half runs per start, and about ten and a half hits. Opponents’ OPS against him is a beefy .824.
Over the last month, the Orioles offense has had its struggles, but it’s fair to say that Gray and Corbin are two pitchers they should tee off against.
How many games will the Orioles win in this series against the Nationals?
This poll is closed
2 (Orioles sweep)
0 (Orioles get swept)