It was exciting to be able to watch the Nationals and Orioles do battle this week in three intriguing games.
The first game was tied into the 11th inning. Following a rain out on Tuesday, the Nationals took advantage of Bud Norris’ inability to hit his spots (he was sent to Double-A after the game for extra work), to win 6-2.
The third game had the Orioles race out to a 4-0 lead, only to see the Nationals fight back to within one run.
And the Nats had their chances to tie or take the lead from the sixth inning on.
In the sixth, the Nationals had a man on second base with two outs and two runs in. Wilson Ramos grounded out to end the threat.
In the eighth, the Nationals had their next best shot with Darren O’Day on the mound, who had befuddled them in the first game Monday.
After a Jayson Werth strikeout, Adam LaRoche connected on a deep double to get a man in scoring position with one out. O’Day countered with a strikeout of Ryan Zimmerman.
Buck Showalter then intentionally walked the left-handed hitting Bryce Harper.
Of course, there are the obvious by-the-book percentages in the righty-lefty matchup, but it’s especially true when facing the submarine delivery of O’Day.
O’Day’s slider moves away from the right-handed hitter. But the slider can be exposed against the left-hander because it can drift right into the hitter’s wheelhouse. Ian Desmond then battled O’Day in one of the better at-bats of the night.
“I thought I saw him really well, actually,” Desmond said. “I was happy that the situation came up again. But we got a lot of chances.”
Desmond took O’Day to a 2-2 count before taking a pitch tight to his hand. The pitch hit Desmond and he walked to first trying to shake off the pain.
Suddenly, the bases were loaded. The Nationals were down 4-3 in the eighth inning, on the road, with 30,417 screaming fans adding to the intensity.
On Monday, O’Day was able to strike out Ramos with a four-seam fastball.
On Thursday, O’Day got Ramos to bite on the slider. He flew out to center field. O’Day had survived the battle and the Nationals eventually lost 4-3.
But the sequence represented what felt like a playoff-type energy between two teams that appear to be slowly building a rivalry. The Nationals players may not have said prior to the series that there was a rivalry, but Showalter’s comments about the Orioles ownership allowing the Nationals to finally get a team was a good first shot.
Too bad the teams only play each other four times in a season.
Maybe a late October meeting would really spice things up?