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Washington Nationals Series Preview: Quick two-game set against the Baltimore Orioles

From one extreme to the other as the Nationals come out of a five-game series to a two-game series, this one against their beltway rival, the Orioles...

MLB: Washington Nationals at Baltimore Orioles Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

At least the Washington Nationals avoided an embarrassing five-game sweep at the hands of the Philadelphia Phillies over the long weekend series. That’s most of the positives the team can take from the field this past series — other than Jackson Tetreault’s impressive start.

Yes, the Nationals battled and tied a couple of games in the ninth inning, but wound up losing both in extra innings, and despite a win in Sunday’s series finale, they now sit at 24-46, only avoiding the worst record in Major League Baseball by a few win percentage points.

Not that the record was of much concern to those at Nationals Park, as the team retired Ryan Zimmerman’s number in an emotional ceremony on Saturday. We didn’t cry, honestly.

Next for the Nationals is a short two-game series against the Baltimore Orioles in Camden Yards.

The Orioles have picked things up a bit this year compared to the last few years and sit at 30-38 to this point in the year, as their offense has picked them up so far this month.

Camden Yards may not bring happy memories for Nationals fans though. The last time the team visited the ballpark, they were swept away by their hosts in a series that effectively sealed the organization’s trade deadline sell-off less than a week later.

Here’s the lowdown from Camden Yards ahead of the two-game set with the Orioles...

The schedule

  • Game One: Tuesday, June 21st, 7:05 pm EDT. TV: MASN 2, Radio: 106.7 The Fan
  • Game Two: Wednesday, June 22nd, 7:05 pm EDT. TV: MASN 2, Radio: 106.7 The Fan

Probable Pitchers

  • Game One: Erick Fedde (4-5, 4.88 ERA) vs Jordan Lyles (4-5, 5.10 ERA)
  • Game Two: Patrick Corbin (3-9, 6.59 ERA) vs Tyler Wells (4-4, 3.62 ERA)

Who’s hot?

Josh Bell: After a short slump, Bell looks like he’s rounding back into form again lately, and is hitting for a lot more power than he was during his hot start to the season.

In his last 21 games, Bell has a dominant .307/.393/.640 slash line, hitting seven of his 11 home runs on the season in this stretch, while also driving in 19 runs, walking 13 times, and striking out 19 times. He even managed to notch a rare triple in that stretch.

At this point, Bell is a virtual lock to be traded before the trade deadline on August 2nd, so the Nats will be hoping he keeps this production up to boost his trade value before then.

Ryan Mountcastle: As the Orioles hope to start moving into a new era, Mountcastle has been a player that they’ve expected a lot from for a while now, and so far this month, he’s one of their better performers at the plate.

In June, Mountcastle is slashing a powerful .288/.342/.667 with six home runs and 16 RBIs, giving him a 180 wRC+ which is 11th in the American League in that span. He also has multi-hit games in five of his last eight games, so is scorching hot coming into this series.

Expect Mountcastle to be in the lineup for both games at either first base or DH and provide some thump to a young Orioles lineup.

Who’s not?

Erick Fedde: In his sixth major league season, we still haven’t quite figured out whether Fedde is a major league standard pitcher. On occasions, he can eat innings and limit opposition offenses. On others, he loses command, can’t put hitters away, and they make him pay.

Right now, the right-hander is going through a spell of the latter. In his last four starts, Fedde sports an ugly 8.47 ERA and 5.19 FIP, allowing 16 earned runs in 17 innings while striking out nine and walking nine. Funnily enough, the Nats are 2-2 in those starts.

Right before that four-start stretch, Fedde had a five-start run with a 1.95 ERA and 3.92 FIP, which pretty much sums his career up. So, in actuality, who knows what version of Fedde we’ll see in the series opener on Tuesday...

Jorge Mateo: Much like the Nationals have the past 10 months, the Orioles are seasoned experts in claiming formerly highly-rated players on waivers and trying to get them going. Mateo is one such player, who was a top prospect with the New York Yankees.

Unfortunately, Mateo hasn’t been hitting anywhere near what the Orioles were hoping for lately. So far this month, the shortstop is hitting a meager .125/.176/.188 with just one extra-base hit and a whopping 21 strikeouts in 52 plate appearances.

At the very least, Mateo is still providing defense at shortstop and when he does get on, he has elite speed. Even so, they need him to show more with the bar than he is currently.

From the opposing dugout

Check out some of the top Orioles storylines from our friends at Camden Chat...

One more thing to watch

After a few delays, MLB finally instituted its 13-pitcher limit on the active roster on Monday.

If it weren’t for the lockout dragging on, the limit that was brought into the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement might have been implemented to open the season. However, with an abbreviated Spring Training, the deadline was pushed back to allow teams to preserve their pitching staff.

For the Nationals, to adhere to the deadline, they optioned right-hander Cory Abbott to Triple-A following Sunday’s series finale against the Phillies, right after he closed out the 9-3 win with a perfect ninth inning, striking out one Phillie.

Nats skipper Dave Martinez though is hardly looking forward to having one less arm available to him out of the bullpen moving forward...

“For us, I was hoping they would do it,” Martinez said of MLB extending the pitcher limit date. “I can’t sit here and lie to you, but it would be nice if we could keep that extra pitcher.

“I know last time they changed it a few days before, I’m holding my breath, but we’ll see. I would love — and honestly, it’s not just us either. You look around baseball, what’s going on, I think having an extra pitcher will definitely help, at least for the rest of this year.”

As has been talked about ad nauseam with the Nationals, their starting pitching has yet to be able to consistently go deep into games this season, significantly taxing the bullpen.

One less pitcher means one less player to cover innings in the event the rotation can’t make it past the fifth inning. It all adds up.

This series may not be one that the Nationals feel the effects in, with an off-day either side of a short two-game series, but after that, the Nats have just one off-day between then and the All-Star Game and are going to manage things very carefully moving forward.

Series Preview Trivia

Last series’ trivia question: Ryan Zimmerman hit 11 walk-off home runs in his career, tied for eighth-most all-time in the big leagues. How many of those walk-off home runs came against the Phillies? Bonus points if you can name the year(s).

Answer: Three. July 31st, 2010; August 19th, 2011; August 22nd, 2018.

Here’s our trivia question for this series with the Orioles, with some shared player history between the two teams as the subject of this series’ question.

10 players have hit a home run as a member of both the Orioles and Nationals, but only one has hit a home run for the Orioles against the Nationals and for the Nationals against the Orioles. Can you name that player?