O's game blog: The road trip begins in Washington

At 5 1/2 games back of a wild card spot with 22 games and seven series left to play, the Orioles resume their schedule tonight with their last interleague series of the year.

This afternoon Tampa Bay beat Toronto 4-2 in Game 1 of a day-night doubleheader and at game time tonight, Toronto is holding the third American League wild card spot but is just 1/2 game behind both Tampa Bay and Seattle. 

The Orioles (73-67) play at Washington (49-92) versus a Nationals team that has the worst record in Major League Baseball. But the Orioles can’t overlook any team right now and they split two games with the Nationals in June. Washington got swept three in a row over the weekend at Philadelphia, losing by scores of 5-3, 8-5 and 7-5. They have lost five of six overall after going through a 5-1 stretch.

The Nats season got off to a terrible start when they began 6-15 and 12-26 and never really got much better. The club’s run differential of -206 is second-worst in the majors to Pittsburgh. The Nats are 22-47 at home and 18-29 since the All-Star break.

On June 21 in Baltimore, Washington shutout the Orioles 3-0 behind Eric Fedde as Birds batters were held to just four hits. The next night, Tyler Wells pitched five scoreless as the Orioles posted their own shutout 7-0 in a game limited to six innings by rain.

But the story of that night was that outfielder Austin Hays became the sixth Oriole to hit for the cycle and he did it in just six innings. Hays joined Hall of Famers Brooks Robinson and Cal Ripken Jr. in hitting for the cycle along with Jonathan Villar, Aubrey Huff and Félix Pie. Villar had been the most recent before Hays on Aug. 5, 2019 against the Yankees.

Hays, batting leadoff that night against lefty Patrick Corbin, had an infield single in the first, solo homer in the third and tripled in the fourth. There was a rain delay in the fifth inning but play would resume and Hays doubled to center in the sixth to complete the cycle. The rains hit again and the game, now official, as was Hays’ cycle, was called.

So the Orioles and Nats are 1-1 in the season series with these two games remaining. The Orioles are 10-8 this year in interleague games and Washington is 8-10.

The Orioles are 49-39 versus Washington since the Nats moved to Washington, D.C., for the 2005 season. Baltimore is 22-21 all-time at Nats Park.

The Orioles were shutout 1-0 on Sunday by the Red Sox and held to three hits while going 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position. The Baltimore offense has produced just one homer in the last five games and just eight runs and 19 hits over the last four games. The team is batting .156 in those games, going 3-for-19 with runners in scoring position.

Sunday’s game was a rare loss in the last couple of months when the Orioles pitching staff allows two earned runs or less. The O’s staff has thrown that well 31 times since June 16 and they are now 29-2 in those games after the 1-0 loss.

Right-hander Dean Kremer (6-5, 3.23 ERA) gets the start tonight, his 17th. The Orioles are 11-5 in the first 16. Kremer gave up two earned runs and six hits in 5 1/3 on Wednesday at home against Toronto. He followed Tyler Wells, who threw two innings, to the mound that game, starting his outing in the top of the third. Over his last five O’s games, he is 2-1 with a 2.30 ERA and .587 OPS against.

Kremer has been good early on in his starts this year. His ERA over the first four innings of his game is 2.59 and he has allowed five homers in 66 innings.

Right-hander Cory Abbott (0-2, 4.22 ERA) gets the start for the Nats. Abbott, 26, was drafted in round two by the Cubs in 2017. The Nats are 1-4 in his starts. His last one was Sept. 7 when he allowed one run in 4 1/3 innings against St. Louis. His last game came in relief Saturday at Philadelphia when he allowed one run and one hit in one inning.

Lefty batters hit .222 with an OPS of .846 against Abbott and right-handers bat .190/.673.

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