Some thoughts, notes and stats after a weekend of mid-Atlantic region hardball at Camden Yards:
Good news for the Orioles: To me the biggest development of the weekend for the Orioles was seeing Jake Arrieta pitch a third straight good game. I know he gave up a grand slam in New York but the guy has otherwise been pretty rock solid over his last three outings.
In those three, he has pitched 20 innings, allowing 18 hits and six earned runs with three walks to 18 strikeouts. Arrieta has a 2.70 ERA in that time and batting average against of .237 in the three starts.
Arrieta told me Saturday that his recent move back to the first base side of the pitching rubber has been a help to him and that he just feels more comfortable pitching that way.
If Arrieta can pitch like this more consistently, the Orioles' big two of Wei-Yin Chen and Jason Hammel could turn into a tough trio and that would really be big for the club.
A rivalry is born: Can we now say that the Nationals and Orioles is a legit rivalry? I think so and the games clearly seem to mean so much more this year with both teams in playoff contention.
The teams also have some similarities in the dugout with smart vets in Buck Showalter and Davey Johnson and in the front office with old school GM-types who believe in player development and scouting in Dan Duquette and Mike Rizzo.
The Orioles won four of the six games this year, but each O's win was by a single run and five of the games were decided by two runs or less. The fans turned out, with 254,912 attending the six games.
The games were close, well-attended and a lot was riding on each pitch. It seems to be developing as well into a respectful and fun rivalry and not one that is mean-spirited among the fan bases.
If it is possible to have a rival that you only play six times a year, this could be it.
Jim Johnson has become a lock-down closer: Of all the Orioles that have put up stats good enough to make the All-Star team, I think Jim Johnson should be the biggest lock to make the American League squad.
Of the top closers in the AL, only Chris Perez of Cleveland has more saves than Johnson (23 to 22) and only Tampa Bay's Fernando Rodney has a better ERA (by just 1.07 to 1.10).
Johnson is 22-for-23 in saves with that 1.10 ERA and a WHIP of 0.67 that is the best of all the top AL closers. That combination clearly says All-Star to me without much question.
Johnson smoothly closed a pair of 2-1 wins over the weekend with little drama. O's fans no longer have to bite their nails and consider not watching when the team takes a close lead to the ninth.
Showalter is fond of saying he likes to see players get rewarded for their hard work and effort and Johnson's reward for a great first half should be an All-Star berth.
Some leftover stats from the weekend:
* The Orioles hit just .222 as a team with only five runs and five extra-base hits in the three games and went 1-for-16 with runners in scoring position.
* O's pitching over the weekend allowed just three earned runs on 19 hits with six walks to 25 strikeouts for an ERA of 1.00.
* After scoring 27 runs in their previous home series against the Pirates, the Orioles have scored just eight runs their last six games and 17 runs the last nine games.
* In their last seven games, the Orioles have won three times when scoring just two runs.
* The Orioles won five of six interleague series, matching their best mark against the NL from 2009.