Baltimore Orioles vs. Washington Nationals

In what could be seriously considered a World Series preview, the Orioles will “travel” the grueling 30 miles southeast to take on their business partner, the Washington Nationals. The first two games will be played at Nats Park, then returning to a real ballpark (OPACY) Wednesday and Thursday to close out the home and home series.

This starts what I’ve coined the past couple years with some assistance from the legendary Scott Garceau as The MASN Cup. Some also refer to it as the Beltway Series, but in my humble opinion that moniker stinks worse than the Anacostia River.

The artist formerly known as the Expos at post time sit 48-39, half a game back of Atlanta in the NL East. They are 28-18 at home and have their “ace” Stephen Strasburg (7-6, 3.53 ERA) toeing the rubber in the opener.

He will be opposed by the Orioles “ace” Chris Tillman (7-4, 4.21 ERA) who took a no-decison in his last outing against Texas. Tilly had posted back to back 7+ inning performances prior to his 5 2/3 innings vs. the Rangers. As MLB.com’s preview pointed out, “Tillman has been much better of late”. Whatever that means to you.

The Orioles are 25-19 away from the friendly confines of OPACY, which is 4th best (in the loss column) in the American League. So far this year they are 4-3 vs. NL teams and have had the Nats number over the past couple seasons. Last year, the O’s took 3 of 4 from the “Expos” retaining the MASN Cup for another year — that’s three years and counting.

Overall the O’s lead the Nats, 26-20, in the eight year history of the “Beltway Series.”

Here are the rest of the pitching matchups:

Tuesday: Wei-Yin Chen (8-3, 4.12 ERA) vs. Doug Fister (7-2, 2.93 ERA)

Wednesday: Tanner Roark (7-6, 3.12 ERA) vs. TBA (but should be Bud Norris if healthy)

Thursday: Gio Gonzalez (6-4, 3.52 ERA) vs. Miguel Gonzalez (4-5, 4.22 ERA)

MASN Cup Nuggets

Did you know that Buck Showalter managed Nats skipper Matt Williams during his three year stint in Arizona (1998-2000)? It’s no surprise to Showalter that Williams is in his first season as manager of the Nats.

“He was a student”,” said Showalter. “The way he played the game, he was a good teammate. It doesn’t surprise me at at all.”

Nat’s “slugger”, Bryce Harper continues to struggle since returning from the DL last week. Harp was 0-3 with two K’s Sunday (vs. Jake Arrieta) and dropped his average to .190 since being activated last Monday. He has collected just four hits during that time and only one has gone for extra bases.

After this series, the Orioles will host the Yankees over the weekend. Sunday’s game will be on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball and will feature Yankees SP Masishro Tanaka who was selected for the AL All Star team in his first season.

That will wrap up the first half for the Orioles and here’s hoping this start in July (4-1 record, 28 runs scored and 7 HR’s) is a trend that continues into the All Star Break and beyond!