Having followed up a losing streak with a successful four-game stretch, the Washington Nationals enter the Beltway Series with momentum on their side.
The Baltimore Orioles are looking to put a crushing loss behind them.
The Nationals try to keep rolling when they open a four-game set against the visiting Orioles on Monday.
Washington (26-24) had dropped a season high-tying four straight before winning three of four, defeating Philadelphia 6-1 on Sunday. Stephen Strasburg threw eight innings and Steve Lombardozzi doubled home a pair of runs for the Nationals, who have collected at least 10 hits in three straight contests.
“Things are starting to unfold,” shortstop Ian Desmond said. “We’re starting to play the game better.”
While the Nationals appear to be back on track, the Orioles (27-23) saw things fall apart in a 6-5 walkoff loss at Toronto on Sunday. Baltimore had won four of five and appeared headed for another victory before closer Jim Johnson allowed four runs in the ninth inning.
It’s been a rough couple of weeks for Johnson, who’s blown four of his last five save chances while surrendering 12 runs in his last six appearances spanning five innings.
“We should be getting on the plane with three wins here, but I can’t hang my head too long,” he said. “It’s going to hurt for a little bit, and it should.”
The Orioles now turn their attention to the Nationals, from whom they’ve taken 10 of 15. These clubs play again Tuesday in Washington before the series shifts to Baltimore.
“It’s a place we have played before, it’s not as much adjustment as there usually is,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of Nationals Park. “The game is the game - it’s 90 feet (between bases). But the biggest thing is trying to familiarize yourselves with the players.”
Baltimore may not be looking forward to facing Gio Gonzalez (3-2, 3.66 ERA), who’s gone 1-0 with a 1.67 ERA in four starts this month. The left-hander allowed one run and four hits over 7 1-3 innings Wednesday, retiring 15 of 16 at one point in a 2-1, 10-inning win at San Francisco.
Jones went 3 for 5 on Sunday and has homered in a career-high four straight games. He’s batting .383 with seven homers and 21 RBIs in 30 career games versus Washington.
The Orioles lead the majors with 69 home runs and a .460 slugging percentage.
“Just trying to pound the strike zone, especially knowing that Baltimore’s a very aggressive hitting team,” Gonzalez said. “So my job is to make sure to keep myself in the game and try to compete at the highest level to give my team a chance to win.”
The right-hander has won four consecutive starts versus Washington and is 5-0 with a 3.30 ERA in seven career matchups. He allowed one unearned run and struck out a career high-tying 10 over eight innings to beat the Nationals 2-1 on June 22.
Harper aggravated his sore left knee Sunday and was removed for a pinch runner in the seventh inning. While manager Davey Johnson said Harper will “probably be down a few days”, Harper said he doesn’t expect to miss any time.