The Baltimore Orioles came into the Wednesday night game against the Washington Nationals having won 23 of the previous 36 games. This winning pattern has been accomplished through reasonably solid starting pitching, shut-down relief pitching, top-notch defense, and power hitting.
But on this evening it was the Nationals who would turn the tables on the Birds, winning 6-2 by use of a strong-enough outing from starter Doug Fister, two shutout relief innings, great defense turning potential hits into double plays, and three home runs to only one for the O’s.
The evening featured the return of Bud Norris from his stint on the disabled list. The good news is that his fastball velocity was not at all lacking, and his breaking balls had some nasty bite. Norris looks healthy enough. The problem was that the Nationals crushed every mistake that filtered over the plate. Solo home runs were tallied by Wilson Ramos in the second inning and Ian Desmond in the fourth off of Norris, while Jayson Werth totally crushed one off Brad Brach in the ninth inning.
Fister is having a very fine season for the Nationals, as his record improves to 8-2 with a 2.90 ERA. On this evening he would uncharacteristically walk two batters and hit a third, but the Orioles were unable to capitalize on this. Though Chris Davis had his first multi-hit game since June 11th and Manny Machado was 3-for-4 with a home run, it was not enough.
Particularly killing off any potential big-inning rallies were two defensive gems by Desmond at short and Anthony Rendon at third base – each picking total “screamers” off the bat of Caleb Joseph and turning them into inning-ending double plays.
Chen is 8-3 on the season with a 4.12 ERA, having had good run support. He has not had a happy experience in his two previous starts against Washington. He is 0-2, having given up eight runs on 14 hits in 9.1 innings. Both games were in 2012. One of three home runs hit against him was by Stephen Strasburg, while another was by Adam LaRoche.
Gonzalez enters with a 6-4, 3.52 ERA on the 2014 season. In six career starts against the Baltimore Orioles he is 1-3, but with a 3.75 ERA. He has given up 39 hits in 36 innings, but also 17 walks. The current O’s roster is a combined 20-for-96 (.208) with three doubles against Gonzalez – not good! Nick Markakis is the best at 5-for-16 with a double, but no less than Nelson Cruz is 0-for-10.
The Baltimore Orioles remain 2.5 games ahead of the Jays, who also lost on Wednesday night. However the Yankees did win to move to three games behind. The Yanks are the next team in town, though they will be without Masahiro Tanaka who was put on the DL and is having his arm examined further on Thursday.