Will defense be the difference in this series? (O’s get lead)

Something worth tracking in the Orioles-Nationals series over the next four days is the defensive disparity between the teams.

The Orioles are tied for first in the American League with a .990 fielding percentage while the Nats tie for last in the National League at .979. The O’s have made the fewest errors in the AL (18) while the Nats are tied for the most in the NL (39).

O’s catchers rank first in the AL, throwing out 52 percent on the season while the Nats rank last in the NL at 13.2 percent.

Kurt Suzuki, starting at catcher today for Washington, has thrown out just three of 30 on the year for 10 percent. However, with a lefty starting for the Nats in Gio Gonzalez, the O’s Nate McLouth, who is tied for the league lead with 15 steals, is not starting today.

The Orioles have now fallen to second in the AL with 38 team steals, two behind Kansas City. They rank third in the AL in stolen base success rate at 83 percent.

Reeling a bit after Sunday’s loss, the Orioles could use any edge they can get these days and the stat sheet says they have a big edge in defense in this series.

Will that be a factor and how much of one will it be over the next four days?

Jason Hammel gets the start today for the Orioles. He is 6-2 with a 5.37 ERA over 10 starts. After giving up 17 earned runs over 14 2/3 innings in a three-start stretch, he gave up six hits and two runs in 6 2/3 frames in his last start on Wednesday against the Yankees. We’ll soon find out if his inconsistent fastball command is there today.

Gonzalez (3-2, 3.66 ERA) starts for Washington. He had an ERA of 5.34 in April, but is 1-0 with a 1.67 ERA and .172 batting average against in four May starts. He has recorded four consecutive quality starts, his best stretch of the season. But he has thrown his most pitches of any starts of 115 and 116 in his past two outings.

Update: The Orioles, held scoreless on just one hit over the first three innings, broke through for three in the fourth off Gonzalez to take a 3-1 lead. The bottom of the order was important during the rally. No. 8 hitter Yamaico Navarro had an RBI single as he worked the count from 0-2 to 3-2 before his hit. Then Jason Hammel advanced two runners with a bunt on a 1-2 pitch. Nick Markakis then came up with a two-run single for the 3-1 edge.

Markakis is now batting .345 with runners in scoring position and extended his batting streak to 12 games. The Orioles took a 3-1 lead to the fifth inning of the game.

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