Manager: Buck Showalter (9th season)
Last 10 games: 4-6
Who to watch: SS Manny Machado (.324 with 15 HR, 44 RBIs); CF Adam Jones (.274 with 9 HR, 25 RBIs); LF Trey Mancini (.240 with 7 HR, 48 hits); RHP Dylan Bundy (3-6, 4.45 ERA); LHP Richard Bleier (3-0, 1.37 ERA)
Season series vs. Nationals: First meeting (2-2 in 2017)
May 28: LHP Gio Gonzalez (5-2) vs. RHP Alex Cobb (1-6); 1:05 p.m., MASN2
May 29: RHP Jeremy Hellickson (1-0) vs. RHP Dylan Bundy (3-6); 7:05 p.m., MASN2
May 30: RHP Max Scherzer (8-1) vs. RHP David Hess (2-1); 7:05 p.m., MASN2
Inside the Orioles:
When the Orioles closed out April with an 8-20 record, executive vice president Dan Duquette told the media he was still evaluating the club, and declared a certain holiday weekend at the end of May to be the target for deciding whether major changes needed to be made. Happy Memorial Day, everyone. It's been a month since Duquette's declaration, and things haven't gotten any better for the Birds. The team has the second-worst record in the major leagues, and both the offense and pitching are ranked near the bottom. Are big changes coming? It remains to be seen, but in the meantime, the Orioles get ready to host the Nationals for the first installment of the annual Battle of the Beltways.
The team's most talked about trade chip is also its most fearsome hitter: Manny Machado. The 25-year-old shortstop is having an MVP-type season, hitting .324 with 15 home runs and 44 RBIs. Machado leads the team in nearly every offensive category. Outfielder Trey Mancini has shown that his first full season in the majors was no fluke. Mancini is hitting .240 with seven home runs and is third on the team with 48 hits. Jonathan Schoop spent much of April on the disabled list with an oblique strain, but has fared well since returning on May 8. Schoop has collected 18 hits in as many games and has 12 RBIs during that time.
It's been a rough start for Alex Cobb. After signing with the Orioles as a free agent on March 21, Cobb had little time to get ready for the start of the season. That translated to a 13.11 ERA in April, and while that figure has dropped considerably, Cobb's still fighting an ERA over seven, and searching for his second win of the year. Today will mark Cobb's first career start against the Nationals. Don't let Tuesday starter Dylan Bundy's 3-6 record fool you: he's arguably the most talented arm in the Orioles' rotation. Bundy raced out to a tremendous start, finishing April with a 2.97 ERA over six starts. May hasn't been quite as kind, however, as Bundy has just two quality starts this month. Still, the right-hander is coming off of maybe his best career start, a complete-game victory over the White Sox during which he tallied a career-high 14 strikeouts. Rookie David Hess will start Wednesday's series finale. Hess has filled in as the Orioles have battled injuries and an inconsistent rotation, and will look to move to 3-1 on the year. Rookie Hess has held is own. He's registered quality starts in two of his three outings, and allowed just four hits in his most recent performance against the Rays.
Over the past few years, the Orioles bullpen has been one of the club's strongest assets. Zach Britton has been sidelined all season as he recovers from surgery to repair a ruptured Achilles, but he's getting close to returning. Britton will begin a rehab assignment Wednesday night with the team's Triple-A affiliate, and should return as the team's closer within the next few weeks. With Britton still on the mend, reliever Brad Brach has taken over the ninth inning for the Birds, and has earned eight saves while amassing a 3.60 ERA. Maybe the most pleasant surprise for the Orioles - certainly the bullpen - has been the success of lefty reliever Richard Bleier, who has appeared in 23 games this season and registered a stingy 1.37 ERA.