BALTIMORE — Washington Nationals catcher Matt Wieters was a long-time leader in the Baltimore Orioles’ clubhouse and a favorite of manager Buck Showalter.
So there will be some warm feelings when Wieters returns to Camden Yards for the first time on Monday when the Orioles and Nationals meet for the start of a two-game series. The teams then travel about 40 miles south to play another pair of games at Nationals Park beginning Wednesday.
Showalter is looking forward to seeing Wieters even though the catcher is wearing a different uniform. Wieters was the fifth overall pick by the Orioles in the 2007 draft, and he spent eight seasons in Baltimore before signing with Washington in February.
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“It’s kind of good that some different people other than us get to see what Matt brings,” Showalter said. “I’m sure he’s one of the reasons why they’re off to such a great start. Obviously, they’ve got a really good pitching staff. … There’s so much to like about Matt.”
Baltimore completed a three-game sweep of the Chicago White Sox over the weekend, and they are 20-10 for the first time since 2005.
The Nationals took two of three weekend games from the Philadelphia Phillies. Bryce Harper missed the past three games with a groin injury, but he will be back in the starting lineup Monday against Baltimore, manager Dusty Baker said.
Washington’s Ryan Zimmerman has 10 home runs over his past 16 games. Jayson Werth went 4-for-5 with two homers in a 6-5, 10-inning loss to the Phillies on Sunday.
Washington owns the best record in the National League at 21-10.
“We have the tough Orioles to deal with,” Baker said after the Sunday defeat. “We’re going to their park. We’ll have to put this one behind us.”
The Orioles’ Kevin Gausman (1-3, 7.55 ERA) will look to get back on track after being ejected in the second inning of his last start against the Red Sox after hitting Xander Bogaerts with a 77 mph curveball. Gausman was seething when an opportunity was cut short against Boston.
“You’re going to throw me out for hitting a guy on a curveball? In the second inning?” said Gausman, who 2-1 with a 5.63 ERA in three career starts against Washington. “I mean, it’s pretty bush league.”
The Nationals will counter with Gio Gonzalez (3-0, 1.64 ERA). The left-hander has been dominant this season, but he has struggled against the Orioles over his career. Gonzalez is 1-5 with a 3.88 ERA in nine starts against Baltimore.
Despite the geographical tie to one another, the Orioles and Nationals have not developed a fierce rivalry.
“It’s obviously a proximity thing,” Showalter said. “One, they are good. Right now, on paper they are the best team in the National League. We are going to play them every year, and they are going to be good every year.
“I kind of feed off the fans’ feel for things, I think. I’ve said all along if something’s important to our fans, it better be important to us. There will be Nationals fans here, and there will be Orioles fans over there. We are going to have our hands full.”