The Baltimore Orioles continue their tough road swing with a series at Nationals Park against the Washington Nationals tonight (7pm ET Monday).
For the Orioles, a win would help the team to stay atop the AL East standings. For the Nationals, victory would help them to keep pace with the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves. Either way, this is an important series for both teams especially with the All-Star break fast approaching.
Here are the story lines to follow during the four-game series.
Battle of the Beltways
Taken from the Baltimore Beltway and Capital Beltway, the two highways that run through both Washington DC and Baltimore, the Battle of the Beltways is the bi-annual series played between the Nationals and the Orioles. It began in 2006, the year the Nationals relocated from Montreal to the DC area, as a celebration of sorts for the Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan Area once again hosting two interleague baseball teams.
Since the start of the rivalry, the teams have met 46 times and the Orioles have just a slight lead in victories at 26 to the Nationals 20. No team has won more than four in a row and the majority of the games have been decided in close margins as well.
While the interleague rivalry is not as old as some of the others, it is one of the modern classics considering the state of the franchises. Both DC and Baltimore have seen their teams on the rise over the past few seasons and this year is no different. The Nationals are just a game out of first place and the Orioles are in first place by two games.
In addition to the recent success of both teams, the rivalry is fueled by proximity as well. Like the “Subway Series,” held annually between the New York Yankees and New York Mets, the “Beltway Series” spans just 38.6 miles and is under an hour drive. Because of the closeness of the cities, the fan bases are constantly looking to attract newcomers within the confines of a shared space.
The rivalry has had some contentious moments over the course of its history but recently it has been all about the baseball. Monday’s game as well as the whole four-game series should be the same considering that first place in two divisions could be on the line.
Probable Pitchers: (BAL) Chris Tillman vs (WAS) Stephen Strasburg
This is the tale of two young aces who haven’t always lived up to expectations this season. There is Chris Tillman (pictured), who slowly but surely grew into the role and only maintains it because he is the most consistent starter on the team and on the other side is Stephen Strasburg who was handed the title of ace before he threw a single pitch even if his numbers and injury concerns haven’t always supported that. Both are talented pitchers but both have had their issues this year. Which one will come up on top Monday is anyone’s guess.
- Chris Tillman’s Road Woes – Tillman hasn’t particularly excelled at home this year but it is his numbers on the road that are most troubling. Tillman has allowed 59 hits and 34 earned runs in just 55.1 innings away from Camden Yards. He has an ERA of over 5.50 and 26 walks to just 36 strikeouts. His command of the fastball has been off and whether it be pressure, rowdy crowds or something between the ears, Tillman has not pitched well on the road.
- Stephen Strasburg’s Inability to Stop the Long Ball – Strasburg continues to dazzle with his NL-best 131 strikeouts but other than that, he has been very up and down this season. One of the most notable elements of that is his propensity to give up the home run ball with more frequency than he should. Strasburg has already yielded 11 home runs in just 18 starts including at least one in each of his last four starts. The ERA hasn’t been great either as a result because these bombers aren’t solo shots.
Unfortunately for Strasburg, Baltimore is second in all of baseball with 113 home runs on the season and is tops with 55 home runs on the road. Unfortunately for Tillman, the Nationals are a top-five offensive team at home and have been very good especially in the last few weeks of June into July.
All things considered, I would give a slight edge to Strasburg in this matchup. Only a few Orioles hitters have significant at-bats against him and he is coming off one of his best starts of the season. The home run ball could be an issue but Nationals Park has some of the biggest dimensions in the league and in six of his 10 home starts, Strasburg hasn’t given up a home run. It looks positive for him to have a good game on Monday.
Orioles at Nationals Betting Preview Pick & Prediction
Both starters should go no more than seven innings and then it could come down to the bullpen. The slight edge again goes to the Nationals as Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano have been excellent as of late. Meanwhile the Orioles’ bullpen hasn’t been as steady and has cost the team in a few key moments.
Other than the bullpen, both offense have looked good. The argument can be made that the Orioles have more power expectations and that their road run and home run totals are daunting despite the caveat of playing in one of baseball’s bigger parks.
Then of course there is the pitching match-up, which as already mentioned, favors Strasburg.
Finally and maybe the one thing that will put the Nationals on top is that they are at home. Not only does this give the Nats, who are 10 games over .500 at home and just one on the road, the classic elements of home field advantage such as knowing the caroms of the walls and having the fan support, but it also helps in the fact that the Orioles have to make the trip from Boston and have to do so after an extra-inning game against the Red Sox.