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Nationals vs. Orioles Series Preview: The Battle of the Beltways begins

The Washington Nationals and rival(?) Baltimore Orioles begin a three-game slate with the Nats sporting the best record in baseball over the past month.    

Tampa Bay Rays v Baltimore Orioles - Game One Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images

Nationals (29-22) vs. Orioles (17-36) series info:

Game 1: Monday, May 28 at 1:05 p.m. EST (MASN/106.7 The Fan)

Game 2: Tuesday, May 29 at 7:05 p.m. EST (MASN/106.7)

Game 3: Wednesday, May 30 at 7:05 p.m. EST (MASN/106.7)

Pitching matchups:

Monday: Gio Gonzalez (5-2, 2.38) vs. Alex Cobb (1-6, 7.32)

Tuesday: Jeremy Hellickson (1-0, 2.13) vs. Dylan Bundy (3-6, 4.45)

Wednesday: Max Scherzer (8-1, 2.13) vs. David Hess (2-1, 4.15)

What to watch for:

Gio knows how to work his way out of jams

Since the start of last season, Gio Gonzalez has stranded 81.6 percent of baserunners to make it past the batter’s box — the third highest rate in the majors. The league-average LOB% is 72 percent, meaning Gonzalez has been excellent at shutting down potential offensive outbursts before they get too out of hand.

It’s a dangerous way to live as a pitcher, especially considering he’s walking more than four batters per nine innings this season. But his stingy home-run rate (0.5 HR/9) coupled with strong strikeout numbers (9.5 K/9) have been a recipe for success so far in 2018.

Have the Nats found bullpen help in two journeymen?

The duo has only combined for four innings pitched in their brief tenure with Washington, but manager Davey Martinez has already used both of them in high-leverage situations. Neither Tim Collins nor Justin Miller pitched in 2017 – Collins hadn’t graced a major-league mound since 2014 — but they’re quickly gaining Martinez’s trust.

Collins made three appearances in the Nationals’ series with the Miami Marlins with the two teams within at most three runs of each other. Miller picked up his first win and hold in the series as well. With how shaky the bullpen has been this season, it’s worth watching whether the duo gets more chances in tight situations moving forward.

It’s Machado … and everybody else

There haven’t been too many things that have gone right for this Orioles team so far in 2018. Free-agent signings Chris Tillman, Alex Cobb and Andrew Cashman all sport ERAs north of 5.00. Closer Zach Britton has yet to pitch in a game this season and set-up man Darren O’Day has since joined him on the disabled list. Chris Davis, who is still owed over $100 million through 2022, is batting .156 with just four homers. If it weren’t for Manny Machado, who’s hitting .324 with 15 home runs and 44 RBIs, Orioles fans wouldn’t have too many good reasons to go to the ballpark.

Series history:

The Orioles lead the all-time series (2005-present) 38-26, including a .656 winning percentage at Camden Yards. Despite the fact that these two teams play each other at least four times every season, Washington hasn’t won a season series over Baltimore since 2007.