35 Years Later, Nats Lose

Chris Ray
A night after blowing his first save, Orioles closer Chris Ray comes back to finish off the Nationals, earning his 19th save in a 2-1 win. (Gail Burton - Associated Press)
By Jorge Arangure Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, June 24, 2006

BALTIMORE, June 23 -- There is a small segment of those at Oriole Park at Camden Yards who want to hiss and bicker at each other because one fan wears orange and the other red and because the two cities are supposedly geographically and ideologically opposed to each other.

White-collar Washington vs. blue-collar Baltimore. The established Baltimore Orioles in contrast to the newly established Washington Nationals. But for now, this is a rivalry in theory, not practice, as the 48,331 fans at Camden Yards mingled more than argued with one another on Friday.

The Orioles defeated the Nationals, 2-1, in the first game played here between a team from Washington and a team from Baltimore since Sept. 10, 1971. And instead of venom, there was a sellout.

On the mound for the Orioles was Rodrigo Lopez, who had fumed for several days, though at his own team and not at the Nationals. Lopez had been upset when the Orioles decided last weekend to skip his turn in the rotation. In truth, Lopez was only pushed back a few days, but it had been more a slight to his pride than his routine.

"Definitely I was unhappy," Lopez said. "Like I said in New York, I didn't agree. Once I got home, I had that in my mind."

For Washington, losers of four consecutive games and nine of 11, John Patterson was welcomed back into the rotation after a nearly two-month stint on the disabled list with a right forearm strain.

These pitchers dueled for six innings, Patterson proving that he's healthy and Lopez proving he should not be forgotten. Neither walked a batter.

"Not only was [Lopez] hitting spots, he was moving the ball very well, cutters and sinkers pretty much the whole game," catcher Javy Lopez said.

Patterson allowed two runs, with one scoring in the third inning after Nick Markakis had led off with an infield single. Patterson had attempted to field the ball, which had dribbled just 50 feet from home plate, but once he grabbed the ball with his right hand he did not make a throw. It appeared he had a chance to throw Markakis out at first. Markakis eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by Melvin Mora. Baltimore added an unearned run in the sixth on Corey Patterson's two-out single, scoring Mora.

Washington had the leadoff man on in the third, fifth and sixth but could not score against Lopez, wasting Patterson's fine effort.

"If I think about this tonight, I will not go to sleep," Washington Manager Frank Robinson said. "It's hard. We haven't been getting, the last week or so, this type of game. When we're in these type of games, I feel like we have to win, because we're not a big offensive ballclub."

It was a peculiar lineup for Robinson, who had Marlon Anderson batting cleanup instead of the power-hitting Daryle Ward, who helped score Washington's first run when he hit a sacrifice fly in the seventh while pinch hitting for Damian Jackson. Otherwise, the Nationals' offense appeared meek against Lopez.

In his most defining moment of the game, Lopez struck out Alfonso Soriano with a man on first in the seventh to end a threat. He allowed just one run on seven hits in seven innings.

"It's hard to judge how good the pitchers are, because our offense is so inept, it's unbelievable," Robinson said. "We don't give ourselves very many chances, and the chances that we do get, we're just not getting the big base hit."

The past three games have been a boon for Orioles starters. Lopez, Erik Bedard and Kris Benson combined to allow just two runs in 23 innings.

Orioles closer Chris Ray, only a day removed from the first blown save of his career, finished the game with a scoreless ninth.

"I wasn't going to blow this one, that's for sure," Ray said. "I didn't want to wait for several days for another opportunity."

And with that, Nationals and Orioles fans left in unison. In truth, these are sister cities, Baltimore and Washington, and their teams are more alike than their fans would like to think.

Ponder this: They are both stuck near the bottom of their respective divisions. Their records after are almost identical; Baltimore is 34-41, Washington 32-43. Both may soon trade their best player, the Nationals offering Soriano to the highest bidder for prospects while the Orioles may dangle Miguel Tejada to restock their roster.

There seems more to share than dispute.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company