Orioles-Nationals Preview

While most – if not all – previous meetings between the

Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals haven’t had much

significance, this year’s Beltway series has all the makings of a

heavyweight showdown.

With both teams surprisingly very much in contention, the Adam

Jones-led Orioles open a three-game set with the Nationals looking

to extend their longest road winning streak in 13 seasons Friday

night.

After 14 consecutive losing campaigns, Baltimore (25-14) enters

the weekend atop the AL East thanks in large part to an impressive

power display. The Orioles have belted a major league-leading 61

homers – equaling their total through 62 games in 2011.

Washington (23-15), which finished third in the NL East last

year after coming in fourth or fifth in each of the previous eight

seasons, has also been formidable. Leading the majors with a 2.94

ERA, the Nationals have held on to the division lead for much of

the season but currently sit one-half game behind Atlanta.

“As far as the Orioles go, both teams are climbing and still

getting better,” Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman told

MLB.com. “In previous years, it was tough to be a Nationals fan and

an Orioles fan, so it’s nice to see both teams winning, and people

in this area rooting for them.”

The Nationals and Orioles split six games in 2011, with each

club taking two of three at home. Baltimore, 25-26 all-time in this

series, hasn’t experienced much road success against the NL of

late, dropping 15 of 21.

“The bottom line is, if it’s important to our fans, it’s

important to us,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “Initially,

we are just busy trying to prepare three starting pitchers to play

offense.

“We all know, this type of thing, that it’s obviously advantage

to the National League team, they’ve got people (that) are going to

be asked in our ballpark to do what they do all the time. But they

are asking a lot of people (on our club) to do something they

haven’t done before, and I don’t think it’s particularly fair.”

Coming off their third straight win overall and a two-game sweep

at Kansas City, the Orioles have won seven in a row in opposing

ballparks – their longest road winning streak since a 10-game run

Aug. 29-Sept. 24, 1999. Baltimore took Thursday’s series finale 5-3

behind six solid innings from Brian Matusz and Jones’ third homer

in as many days.

The center fielder has hit seven of his team-leading 13 homers

over his last 13 games.

“Jones is having a great year and we’re proud of him,” Showalter

added. “He doesn’t ever give in. You always feel that if he

struggles, somebody is going to pay down the line. He’s a very

competitive young man.”

Batting .389 with five homers and 17 RBIs in 24 career games

against Washington, Jones is 3 for 14 with one home run against

Nationals scheduled starter Edwin Jackson (1-1, 3.71 ERA).

Jackson, who’s gone 0-1 with a 4.25 ERA over his last five

starts, yielded three runs and five hits over five innings of

Sunday’s 9-6 walk-off loss at Cincinnati.

The right-hander is 5-0 with a 2.68 ERA in his last eight

outings versus the Orioles, the most recent of which came while

with the Chicago White Sox in August 2010.

Jackson will be opposed by Jake Arrieta (2-4, 5.21), who’s gone

1-4 over his last five outings. Aside from throwing eight innings

of five-hit ball during a 5-0 victory at Yankee Stadium on May 2,

Arrieta has compiled a 9.90 ERA over those other four starts.

The right-hander surrendered a season-worst seven runs and a

career-high 10 hits over just 3 2-3 innings of Sunday’s 9-8 loss to

Tampa Bay.

“Really the only thing I take away from it is, just I got to get

the ball down,” Arrieta said.

Arrieta has struggled against Washington, giving up a combined

12 runs over two starts spanning just eight innings.

The Nationals lost 5-3 to Pittsburgh on Thursday, splitting a

two-game set. Washington hasn’t dropped back-to-back home games

since Sept. 16-17.