Nationals-Orioles: The significance of this weekend


You don’t need to drive on either beltway to travel between Camden Yards and Nationals Park, and the only “battles” are the contests between media members to see who can apply the most unwarranted hype to the Orioles/Nationals series, and between the respective fan bases to see who can insult the other most creatively.

As for the actual players (and managers), these games barely register as any more important than any others.

“It’s where I broke in, where my kids were born,” said Nationals Manager Davey Johnson, whose deep ties to the Orioles franchise would make him, logically speaking, the man with the most emotional investment in the series. “I’ve always been a Baltimore Orioles fan. [But] other than that, and having a bunch of friends [in the Orioles’ organization], the games aren’t any more important than any others.”

But all that said, there is a major difference between the upcoming Orioles/Nationals series, which opens Friday night at Nationals Park, and those of the past: This time, both teams are very good, and will be playing for first place in their respective divisions.

Simply put, the Orioles and Nationals have never met under these circumstances. Typically, one or both have been gawd-awful messes by the time interleague play rolls around. (The one exception was 2005, the Nationals’ inaugural season in Washington, when both teams were over .500 for much of the year; unfortunately, the MLB schedule-makers didn’t have time to alter the master schedule to line up an Orioles/Nationals series, so the teams didn’t play each other.)

And so, the Orioles and Nationals have never opened a series against each other when both teams were over .500. In fact, only twice has even one team been above .500 at the start of a series — and both came in 2008, when the Orioles carried a winning mark into both interleague series.

This weekend, because of the stakes — with the Orioles in first place, and the Nationals just a half-game out — the “Battle of the Beltways” has a chance to rise to the level of something more closely resembling a real rivalry. You can’t create this stuff. It has to happen on its own.

FROM THE POST

On the eve of the Orioles series, the Nationals lost in uninspiring fashion to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

FROM YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL

Jordan Zimmermann was not as comfortable as Andrew McCutchen.

Michael Morse may return sooner than expected.

NATS MINOR LEAGUES

Syracuse 6, Columbus 1: Mitch Atkins (3-3), Tanner Roark and Josh Wilkie combined on a five-hitter. Corey Brown went 3 for 5 with a double and an RBI. Jim Negrych homered.

Richmond 1, Harrisburg 0: After Senators radio man Terry Byrom foolishly tweeted about the fast pace of the game, the teams went 14 innings and the Senators lost. Danny Rosenbaum pitched seven shutout innings and has a 0.62 ERA.

Potomac 10, Frederick 9: The P-Nats scored three in the bottom of the ninth to win. Michael Taylor went 3 for 4 with a double, a stolen base and three RBI. Neil Holland got the win with three shutout innings of relief.

Hagerstown 13, Delmarva 11: Caleb Ramsey went 4 for 5 with a double. Cutter Dykstra and Jason Martinson each drove in three runs. Billy Burns stole three bases.

Dave Sheinin has been covering baseball and writing features and enterprise stories for The Washington Post since 1999.

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