The Washington Nationals (33-40) have struggled in interleague play this season. Despite taking two of three from the Kansas City Royals earlier this week, the Nationals are 5-10 against the American League in 2010. Providing hope to Nationals fans is the fact that two of those wins came against the hapless Baltimore Orioles. Their three May meetings were all tightly contested, with the Orioles winning the opener by a score of 5-3 before dropping the following two games by one run each, 7-6 and 4-3.
The Orioles (20-52) offer a good chance for Washington to return to its winning ways from April and May. Baltimore has lost 13 straight series dating back to a May 11-13 three-gamer against the Seattle Mariners, and the Orioles have gone 9-28 since. That time period also encompasses the entirety of their interleague schedule to date in which they have just four wins against 11 losses, a microcosm of their painfully inept season. Our neighbors to the north have the worst winning percentage in all of baseball (.278) - five games below the second worst team (Pittsburgh) - and stand 25 games out of first place in the brutally competitive AL East. The Nationals will look to extend Baltimore's unenviable streak to 14 consecutive series and show the Orioles that the American League does not have a monopoly on potent East division clubs.
Miguel Tejada: 8-14, HR, 4 runs, 4 RBI
Adam Jones: 7-13, 2B, 2 HR, 4 runs, 3 RBI
Scott Moore: 1-8, 3 Ks
Jeremy Guthrie: Last 5 starts - 32.1 IP, 34 H, 20 ER, 0-5 record
Friday, June 25: J.D. Martin (0-3, 3.55) vs. Jake Arrieta (2-1, 5.06)
Saturday, June 26: Livan Hernandez (6-4, 2.82) vs. Brad Bergesen (3-4, 6.50)
Sunday, June 27: Luis Atilano (6-4, 4.52) vs. Jeremy Guthrie (3-9, 4.28)
A large factor in the Orioles' struggles has been its impotent offense. The Orioles rank in the bottom third of the league in virtually every major offensive statistic, including but not limited to runs, hits, home runs, on base percentage, slugging percentage, batting average, and stolen base percentage. Of Baltimore's myriad weaknesses, this is perhaps the most surprising. While the Orioles' youthful rotation figured to experience a number of bumps in the road - particularly when facing the Red Sox, Rays, and Yankees - the offense was rife with promise. The outfield featured sluggers Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, and Nolan Reimold, and the infield boasted veterans Brian Roberts, Miguel Tejada, and Garrett Atkins. With the anticipated emergence of proclaimed star-in-waiting Matt Wieters, the O's offense was its presumed strength. Evidently, that has not been the case. Roberts has been injured, Markakis has apparently lost his power stroke (3 HRs), and Atkins, Reimold, and Wieters are all hitting .226 or lower.
Unfortunately, Baltimore's pitching has been as weak as expected. The Orioles' rank in the bottom three in baseball in strikeouts, home runs, earned runs, ERA, opponents' slugging, and opponents average. Their starters have been especially poor, ranking second to last in the league with a 5.25 ERA. Free agent addition Kevin Millwood has been an abject bust. Expected to serve as the team's ace and mentor its young pitching prospects, Millwood has gone just 2-8 in 16 starts with a 5.22 ERA and a 1.51 WHIP, and opponents are batting .299 against him this season. The Nationals have the misfortune of missing his spot in the rotation this weekend; however, the young Oriole arms that Washington stands to face are not much better.