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Washington Nationals vs Baltimore Orioles Series Preview: Battle of the Beltway a potential World Series matchup

The Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles have two of the top three records in baseball entering the series.

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Baltimore Orioles Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Nationals (21-10) vs. Orioles (20-10) Series Info:

Game 1: Monday, May 8 at 7:05 p.m. EST — Camden Yards (MASN2/106.7 The Fan)

Game 2: Tuesday, May 9 at 7:05 p.m. EST — Camden Yards (MASN2/106.7)

Game 3: Wednesday, May 10 at 7:05 p.m. EST — Nationals Park (MASN2/106.7)

Game 4: Thursday, May 11 at 7:05 p.m. EST — Nationals Park (MASN/106.7)

Pitching Matchups:

Monday: Gio Gonzalez (3-0, 1.64 ERA) vs. Kevin Gausman (1-3, 7.55)

Tuesday: Max Scherzer (4-2, 2.66) vs. Ubaldo Jimenez (1-1, 6.58)

Wednesday: Stephen Strasburg (3-1, 2.66) vs. Wade Miley (1-1, 2.27)

Thursday: TBA (Jacob Turner? A.J. Cole?) vs. Dylan Bundy (5-1, 2.17)

What to watch for:

An October preview?

The New York Yankees and Chicago Cubs squared off this past weekend with the series finale broadcast nationwide on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball.

While the three-game set was widely discussed as a potential World Series preview, the Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles might have a thing or two to say about that.

The Nats enter play Monday with the best record in the NL, while the Orioles sit just half a game behind the Yankees for first place in the AL East.

Will Ryan Zimmerman ever cool off?

Ryan Zimmerman has been nothing short of the best hitter in baseball so far this season, holding at least a share of the MLB lead in batting average, slugging percentage, OPS, hits, home runs and RBIs.

Zimmerman hasn’t had a full, productive season since 2013, but he claims to be fully healthy and is hitting the ball as hard as anyone.

Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy and Trea Turner garnered all the attention heading into the season, but it’s been Zimmerman that’s stolen the spotlight a month in.

Can the Orioles swallow Zach Britton’s return to the DL?

Baltimore reinstated closer Zach Britton from the disabled list last Tuesday, only to place him right back on it Saturday with the same forearm injury.

Brad Brach has led the way in his absence with seven saves and a 2.04 ERA, but fellow setup man Darren O’Day (4.73 ERA) has struggled.

With the first two starters the Orioles are sending out to the mound this series sporting ERAs above 6.00, the bullpen could play a big role if the Nats’ bats get hot.

Who to watch out for: Jonathan Schoop

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Boston Red Sox Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Manny Machado is the best hitter in the lineup when at his best, but he’s hit just .237 on the year and has been at the center of some unnecessary drama.

There isn’t a single qualified hitter on the Orioles’ roster hitting above .300, but Jonathan Schoop is the closest with a .296/.339/.510 slash line.

His splits against the Nats aren’t strong — albeit in a small sample — but he’s a vital member of the O’s lineup and will be dearly missed if he can’t return for Monday’s game from a hand injury.