Can Hess turn Nats into Rays?

The major league education of rookie right-hander David Hess continues tonight and he won’t be facing the club that’s provided the least resistance.

hess-delivers-orange-sidebar.jpgHess already owns two victories and quality starts against the Rays, including his debut in Game 1 of a May 12 doubleheader at Camden Yards. Matt Duffy’s three-run homer in the first inning accounted for all of the scoring against him. He tossed 6 2/3 shutout innings last week at Tropicana Field, leading the Orioles to their only win of the series.

In between was a lesson in the dangers of pitching at Fenway Park, where the Red Sox hit three home runs in 4 2/3 innings. He was touched for five runs and eight hits in a 5-0 loss.

Tonight, he gets a Nationals team with the best road record in baseball and a winning streak that’s reached nine games to tie the club record.

Andrew Susac has been behind the plate for Hess’ last two starts - the only time they’ve been paired together. Hess made six starts with Triple-A Norfolk and Austin Wynns set the target.

“Wynnie and I were going back and forth and we’ve always missed,” Susac said. “I caught Yefry (Ramirez) a lot. I caught Yefry almost every start. But I watched the game, obviously. He frustrates hitters in the zone and you’re going to have some pretty good success down there if you can command off-speed and throw it whenever you want.

“He’s got his head on right. He’s very composed for his age. He’s only, what, 24? He’s an old soul.”

With fresh legs.

Less than 24 hours after Hess earned his second win in the majors, he was running the steps at The Trop before the Orioles took batting practice. A solitary figure sprinting up an aisle, walking down the next, then turning again and picking up the pace.

The various intangibles that attract the Orioles to Hess include his work ethic. And it allows him to blend with others on the staff.

It’s a way to win over your manager, coaches and teammates.

“Let me give you an example when you talk about wanting to surround people with good people,” said manager Buck Showalter. “We had early BP (Friday) at 2 o’clock, which I’m sure doesn’t surprise anybody, and Dylan Bundy was out there doing the same thing, OK?

“We had a sim game (Saturday) morning at 11 o’clock. I think sometimes people don’t realize all the work that goes on in a day before the actual game. Well, Dylan Bundy was out there also watching Zach (Britton) pitch and talking to some of the young pitchers. We had Pedro (Araujo) and (Miguel) Castro out there working on their times to the plate and their moves to first base. Those are the types of things where, just cover yourself and give yourself a chance to be as good as you’re capable of being. That’s all we ask.”

Hess had the confidence to attempt two pickoffs Friday night with a runner on second base. He nabbed Brad Miller after a leadoff double, making Joey Wendle’s single inconsequential. He might have gotten Mallex Smith, too, if the ball hadn’t gone through Jonathan Schoop’s legs for an error.

Three ground balls later, Smith was stranded at third base.

“There are a lot of things that get your attention from that outing, and not just that one,” Showalter said. “He pitched pretty well in Boston before it kind of came apart a little bit on him. I told you at the time, when he gave up that three-run homer (to Duffy) and then just basically pitched well after it, that tells you a lot about his makeup.

“As much as people want to talk about every little aspect, that’s a great job of player development. The one thing I remember the first time he came to Baltimore and we had three (draft picks) there, he was one of the guys that really caught my attention. Just the way he looked at you, the way he talked to you. His mom and dad. You could tell this guy ...

“Whether or not he had the ability, who knows? But I knew that a lot of things weren’t going to challenge him. ‘I’m letting it rip. I’m not going back to the hotel and be like, Geez, I wish I had trusted myself more.’ And that also creates great presentation to the other team, because up here people really feed off of your body language and just the way you present yourself.”

Does Hess have a shutout in him? Because the Orioles will be facing Max Scherzer, who tends to be stingy.

The three-time Cy Young Award winner is 8-1 with a 2.13 ERA and 0.907 WHIP in 11 starts and his 108 strikeouts in 71 2/3 innings lead the National League and are one behind the Astros’ Gerrit Cole.

The Orioles have scored three runs or fewer in 12 of their last 14 games. Alex Cobb and Bundy have registered back-to-back quality starts - yes, by definition - and the Orioles lost both games.

A roster move could be coming today with Danny Valencia a possibility to go on paternity leave. A short bench strung last night with Valencia scratched from the lineup and Joey Rickard inserted in left field while Jace Peterson moved to third base.

Craig Gentry and Susac were used back-to-back as pinch-hitters with one out in the ninth and struck out to strand two runners in a 3-2 loss.

Chris Davis is 9-for-27 with a double and home run lifetime against Scherzer. Does he remain the cleanup hitter if Schoop stays atop the order?

Adam Jones is 13-for-32 (.406) with three doubles and four home runs against Scherzer, but Manny Machado is 1-for-22 with a home run and 11 strikeouts. Mark Trumbo is 1-for-14 with eight strikeouts and Pedro Álvarez is 1-for-12 with a home run and six strikeouts.

Who wants a turn at making out the lineup?

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