On Monday night, the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals will open up a four-game, home-and-home series beginning at Camden Yards in Baltimore and then transitioning just about 45 miles south to Nationals Park in Washington D.C.
The Orioles, who are just 16-20 since the All-Star break, are arguably playing in their biggest series of the season against their local National League rivals.
The series is critical for the O’s, who sit 2 1/2 games behind the Toronto Blue Jays who are atop the AL East. The Orioles are also just one game ahead of the surging Seattle Mariners for the second wild card spot.
The series is significant because of the rivalry yes, but the Orioles find themselves in the heat of a pennant race and an AL wild card race that is shaping up to be one for the ages.
The series will certainly be a challenge as the Nationals —baseball’s second-best team and the NL East division leaders by 8 1/2 games send both Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherezer to the mound during the four-game set.
The Orioles, a team that entered Tuesday’s game against the Red Sox an AL-best 39-17 at home, are just 1-5 since then with two games remaining on a nine-game homestand.
Despite having a tremendous offense the first half of the season, the Orioles have been able to stay ahead of the pack due to their performance in front of the Baltimore faithful. With a road record of 27-34, the Orioles have relied heavily on their success at home to stay in the race.
Now, it seems they have lost some of their comfort at home and need to regain momentum. With their opponent the Nationals, the time for a spark could not be better. On Monday night, the Nats will send Strasburg to the mound. He will be opposed by O’s starter Dylan Bundy.
Both young right-handers were top five picks in their respective MLB Drafts — Strasburg No. 1 in 2009 and Bundy No. 4 in 2011. Both are also having tremendous seasons. Strasburg is 15-4 with a 3.59 ERA and Bundy is 6-4 with a 3.36 ERA.
If the Orioles can get past Strasburg, it could result in a huge momentum swing for a struggling club.
Everything is not awful for the O’s as they are very much alive in the standings but in just a week, the team that was tied for first place in the AL East now see themselves in the AL playoff picture by just one game.
Nats place Stephen Strasburg on the 15-day DL with right elbow soreness. A.J. Cole will start in his place.
Series Pitching Matchup
Monday: Dylan Bundy (6-4, 3.16) vs A.J. Cole (8-8, 4.26)
Tuesday: Reynaldo Lopez (2-1, 4.37) vs Kevin Gausman (4-10, 4.11)
Wednesday at Washington: Wade Miley (7-10, 5.58) vs Tanner Roark (13-6, 2.87)
Thursday at Washington: Chris Tillman (15-5, 3.76) vs Max Scherzer (13-7, 3.05)