On to brighter battles of the Beltway variety

After watching Davey Johnson and Joe Maddon exchange blows Wednesday, I was considering this blog entry be a list of all of baseball’s unwritten rules. Then, my friend Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times informed me that two books have already been written on the subject.

There goes my dream. Luckily, I have another great idea. It involves a wooden round circle with spokes inside. Can you imagine the possibilities?

Rather than focus on inventing the wheel or a past rift between two huffy managers, I thought your time would be better utilized reading a blog about the future.

And that is the mid-Atlantic rivalry known as the “Battle of the Beltways” is coming to Baltimore this weekend.

For the second time in the same season, it’s an interleague matchup worth watching. The Nationals are still a first-place team and the Orioles are contenders in a close American League East. As of Thursday morning, every single team in the AL East was above .500.

After covering both teams, I believe the Nationals are a better team based solely on their starting pitching. Even so, the Orioles took round one and might be in a good position to win round two. Why? Pitching matchups.

I know, I know. The Nationals lead the major leagues in fewest runs allowed, ERA, starters’ ERA, batting average against and strikeouts per nine innings. Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez are probably the second-toughest one-two punch in the National League right now behind the Mets’ R.A. Dickey and Johan Santana.

But Strasburg and Gonzalez aren’t pitching this weekend in Baltimore. The Orioles’ two best pitchers are.

Here are the pitching probables for the weekend series:

* Friday: Jordan Zimmermann vs. Jason Hammel
* Saturday: Edwin Jackson vs. Wei-Yin Chen
* Sunday: Ross Detweiler vs. Jake Arrieta

Friday’s Zimmermann/Hammel matchup could come down to run support. Whose bats are hotter? Zimmermann owns the seventh-lowest run support average in the National League (3.2 runs per game). Meanwhile, the Birds swing the lumber when Hammel is on the bump. He averages 5.7 runs of support per start.

On Saturday, we could really see a pitchers’ duel. Chen has been as consistent as they come with a 7-2 record and 3.36 ERA. Meanwhile, Jackson has pitched well recently at Camden Yards. In his last two starts there, he is 1-0, allowing one run, walking two and striking out 14 in 14 innings pitched.

The Nats’ eight everyday position players are batting .231 against lefties, but Chen will have to find a way to get Bryce Harper and Danny Espinosa out. Harper is hitting .327 versus lefties and Espinosa is .365.

Sunday will be Detwiler’s first start since being demoted to the bullpen May 25. We’ll see if he comes out rusty or ready to prove he deserves to stay in the rotation. Arrieta will have to stay away from the one big mistake. In his last outing against the Mets, he pitched well until giving up a game changing grand slam to Ike Davis.

As for the hitting, the Nats haven’t shown much power. Meanwhile the Orioles haven’t shown much run production. Overall, I believe the Orioles are more of an offensive threat, especially at home.

So I leave it to you in the blogosphere. Why will you be watching this weekend? Who is more of an attraction, Harper or Adam Jones? Which team will still be contending in September? Most of all, who will you root for and why?