For years, the Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles were relegated to the bottom of the standings. But things have changed. The misery of the area’s two ballclubs — which face each other in a four-game series starting Monday — ended in 2012, when both Washington and Baltimore reached the playoffs. It was the first trip to the postseason for the Nationals since the team moved to the District in 2005, and the Orioles’ first appearance since 1997.
The Nationals’ recent success can be attributed to hitting on a number of high draft picks. Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg, Drew Storen, Ross Detwiler and Ryan Zimmerman, all first-round selections, have become key contributors. Second baseman Danny Espinosa and shortstop Ian Desmond were third-round picks.
With the roster the Nationals were building, it was only a matter of time until they started to win. After a 98-64 season in 2012, expectations were high entering this season. But Washington has stumbled to a 24-23 record so far in 2013.
“Everyone in here wants to win,” Desmond said. “That’s good. You got guys that want to get the job done. They want to succeed. That’s what you want. There is a fine line for us. When it goes good, it’s great. When it doesn’t, everyone questions what you’re doing.
“We want that expectation. We played for it. We busted our butts last year to get it.”
Conversely, the Orioles came out of nowhere a year ago. Projected to finish near the bottom of the AL East, the Orioles went on to earn a wild-card berth.
The franchises have become more accustomed to winning, but both have sputtered over the past couple weeks. The Orioles were riding a six-game losing streak before winning two games over the New York Yankees. The Nationals just ended a 10-game West Coast road trip at 4-6. Yet both teams are still only a few games back of the division lead.
“Anytime you’re going through tough stretches, you try to look back and see what was going right when you’re winning ball games,” Orioles first baseman Chris Davis said. “That’s a lesson you’ll never lose, whether it was last year or two years ago. We have guys in here who know how to win.”
Washington will host Baltimore at Nationals Park on Monday and Tuesday before playing the final two games of the series at Camden Yards.
“It’s a new year, but it’s the same attitude,” Orioles outfielder Adam Jones said. “If you’re looking for similarities between this year and last year, look no further than the attitude of the team. We’re just, every day, showing up ready to play no matter how last night or the night before or the last at-bat went. We’re hungry.”