Orioles-Nationals Preview


Matching their longest winning streak of 2012 has the Baltimore Orioles atop the AL at their latest point in a season in 15 years.

Baltimore's streak is in for a major test as Washington Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg gets his first taste of the Beltway Series.

The Orioles go for their first-ever sweep in the nation's capital and a sixth straight victory overall Sunday, but to do it they'll need to get past the Nationals' budding ace.

Baltimore (27-14) owns the league's best record at its latest point in a season since finishing an AL-best 98-64 in 1997, and is riding a season high-tying five-game winning streak.

After opening the series with a 2-1 victory Friday, the Orioles beat the Nationals 6-5 on Saturday.

Completing a sweep in Washington (23-16) for the first time promises to be a tough task against Strasburg (3-1, 2.25 ERA), among the NL leaders in both ERA and strikeouts (56).

The right-hander, who has never faced Baltimore, is coming off his shortest outing of the season - possibly due to some bizarre circumstances. He allowed a season-high four runs and seven hits in four innings of a 6-1 home loss to San Diego on Tuesday, but manager Davey Johnson explained that some Hot Stuff penetrating ointment accidentally "got to the wrong place" on Strasburg.

"It was on his shoulder and evidently - I don't know how it got to where it got, but it was uncomfortable, to say the least," Johnson said.

Adam Jones will try to make Strasburg uncomfortable on the mound in a much different way.

Baltimore's center fielder is batting .362 with six homers - four over his last five games - and 12 RBIs during an 11-game hitting streak, two shy of his career high. Jones had a homer among his three hits Saturday, driving in two runs.

"Early in the year, with men in scoring position, I was rushing. I had strikeouts, popouts with men in scoring position. I needed to back away from it, and let the ball come to me and see the ball," Jones said. "Lately, I've been trying to see the ball, use my hands and not really try to think too much about the play because thinking, hitters are never supposed to think."

The Orioles are 13-1 this season when Jones goes deep. He's on a pace to hit more than 50 homers - doubling his career high of 25 from last year.

"That would be awesome," Jones said. "My main mission every time I step into that box is hit this ball as hard as you can hit it."

Jones is batting .404 with six homers and 20 RBIs in 26 career games against the Nationals, including a .456 average with five homer and 15 RBIs in 14 contests in Washington.

Probable Orioles starter Wei-Yin Chen (4-0, 2.45) continues to be a pleasant surprise.

The left-hander has allowed two runs or fewer in six of his seven starts. He yielded two runs and four hits in seven innings of Tuesday's 5-2 victory over the New York Yankees.

This will be the first interleague start for the 26-year-old Taiwanese rookie.