Whatever you want to call it: the 'Battle of the Beltways,' the 'Beltway Series,' or something else; the annual season series between the Nationals and Orioles is always a fun one for baseball fans in the area.
Sometimes the matchups disappoint, of course, but lately both teams have been among the best in their respective leagues. Both have formed perennial contenders largely built from within and each feature a nice crop of household names in the game of baseball.
The regional rivalry continues this weekend, as the Orioles host the Nats in a three-game series at Camden Yards in Baltimore. They will also see each other late in the year on Sept. 21-23 in Washington.
This particular series will send both teams into the All-Star break, and right now each could use a respite. The Orioles have lost eight of 10 and just got swept by the Twins. The Nationals have dropped five of their last eight and are currently missing a long list of regulars due to injury.
The Nationals will be without Anthony Rendon, Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth and Stephen Strasburg this weekend. Denard Span is almost certainly out as well, and Yunel Escobar's status is up in the air. They will, however, catch a break by missing the Orioles' best pitcher, Ubaldo Jimenez, with the right-hander having pitched on Thursday.
The Nats will instead see Chris Tillman, who has really struggled this year at 6-7 with a 5.57 ERA, Miguel Gonzalez (7-5, 3.87) and lefty Wei-Yin Chen (4-4, 2.82). The Nats have yet to announce their full rotation for the weekend, though Gio Gonzalez will start the series-opener.
The Nats and Orioles have been playing each season going back to 2006. This is the 10th year of their annual matchup. So far they have played exactly 50 times, with the Orioles holding a 29-21 edge. Based on run differential, the series has been much closer with the Orioles leading by only six runs overall (213-207). But at Camden Yards, the O's have enjoyed a significant advantage at 16-9 in 25 total games.
The Nationals earned a split at Oriole Park last year, winning one of two games there. In the previous six seasons, however, they went 4-13 in Baltimore.
Whether there is a true rivalry between the teams has become a never-ending debate, but there does seem to be more animosity towards the visitors when the Nats go to Baltimore, as opposed to when the O's travel south.
It was a raucous scene, for instance, the last time the Nationals played in Charm City, on July 10 of 2014. Jayson Werth recorded the final out on a groundball to shortstop J.J. Hardy as the 30,417 in attendance chanted the always-original phrase 'Werth-less.' That moment came after Orioles manager Buck Showalter was caught on camera yelling to Werth to 'get in the ****ing box' during a brief ninth-inning delay after Werth fouled a pitch off of his left foot.
That was probably the most tension we have seen between the two teams, at least on the field. With the two stadiums so close to each other, there will naturally be some arguments in the crowd between fans, especially after a few Natty Bohs are consumed.
We'll see if that carries over to their latest meeting, which takes place Friday night.