The Washington Nationals take on their regional rival, the Baltimore Orioles, on Friday night, in the opening game of their three-game series from Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The Orioles enter sitting in last place in the AL East, while the Nationals sit in fourth place in the NL East, but are definitely within fighting distance with the second half of the season to go. These two teams have already met three times this season, with Washington sweeping the series at home back at the end of May. If Washington wants a chance at making a run at the NL East crown, taking down last-place teams like the Orioles need to be at the top of their to-do list. Expect the Orioles to give it a fight, but the question continues to be if their depth will hold up over the course of nine innings.
Nationals Eyeing NL East MoveWashington knows that this weekend's series might present their last chance at making a move in the NL East. Having gone only 3-7 in their last ten games, there aren't many options left for the Nationals to try to make up ground on the Mets. They still only sit six games back but a sweep over Baltimore would do wonder to right the ship, and that all starts on Friday night. The Nationals will be missing Starlin Castro, as well as their top two catchers in Alex Avila and Yan Gomes, but the big name that they'll continue to be without is Kyle Schwarber. Finally coming into his own at the plate, a hamstring injury will at least keep him out for Friday night's game and the rest of the series. As far as the pitching goes, the Nationals will be without three starters and four relievers, putting a slight amount of pressure on the offense to perform and not leave it in their hands.
The Nationals' offense remains one of the more dangerous ones in baseball depending on the night. They rank 15th in runs per game and 18th in home runs per game but have really turned some heads moving up to third in batting average and fifth in hits per game. Schwarber, the team's home run leader, will be missed, but between Juan Soto and Trea Turner, there's more than enough offense to go around. Turner leads the team with a .320 average and 118 hits, while Soto has 54 RBI and a .424 OBP. The bigger story though is that over the last week, Soto has five home runs and 12 RBI, along with a .522 average, and the Orioles will need to be incredibly careful with how they pitch to him on Friday night. Beyond Soto, rookie Tres Barrera has stepped up in the absence of the team's first two catchers and is hitting .389 on his accord over the last week. With the momentum that the Nationals have at the plate as a team, Friday night's game could get out of hand fast.
According to MLB.com, Patrick Corbin will get the ball to lead things off on Friday. Corbin, one of the more experienced pitchers for Washington that's healthy right now, has struggled with consistency this season. His record only sits at 6-8 and his ERA sitting at 5.66 is a concern, as is the fact that he leads all of baseball in earned runs allowed. Corbin has also already seen Baltimore once this year, back on May 23rd, taking the win. In that start though, he still struggled, allowing eleven hits in only 5.2 innings of work, along with four earned runs.
Orioles Confidence FadingThere isn't much to be made of the Orioles this year as they continue to struggle. Besides an opening series sweep of Boston to kick start the season, not much has gone right for the American League's worst team. They sit 26.5 games behind the Red Sox in the AL East and have really nothing but experience to play for over the next few weeks. They continue to be without Chris Davis, while the middle infield is lacking depth as Freddy Galvis and Richie Martin remain out. Add in Maikel Franco's ankle injury and the Orioles very quickly have a team that is going to struggle to compete on a nightly basis.
Pat with a bat 🔥 pic.twitter.com/BOZyoFsXjg— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) July 21, 2021
The Orioles' offense isn't the worst in baseball but isn't too far off either. They rank 25th in runs per game and 23rd in home runs per game while coming in the middle of the ground in batting average (18th) and hits per game (17th). The duo of Cedric Mullins and Trey Mancini has been one reason for the Orioles' slight offensive success this season. Mancini made heads turn at the Home Run Derby and his 16 bombs and 47 RBI are both team-bests. For Mullins, it has been a year he's been waiting for since he was hyped up in the minor leagues. He leads the team with a .314 batting average, 113 hits, and a .378 OBP. Unfortunately for those two, there's isn't much help besides them, which will be problematic on Friday night facing one of baseball's best offenses.
According to MLB.com, Jorge Lopez will get the ball on the mound for the Orioles in the series opener. Lopez has one of the worst records in baseball, at 2-12, and his ERA sitting north of six helps to explain why. His 12 losses are tops in baseball and he hasn't sniffed a win since June 6th. Lopez though was decent in his only start against Washington on the season, going five innings and allowing only two runs, but still took the loss. With his confidence waning and the Nationals surging offensively, this isn't a great matchup for the Orioles staff.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
The Nationals' offense has been playing too well over the last few days to think that Baltimore will have any chance to keep it close. They've scored seven runs or more in four of their last six games, against pitching staffs much stronger than what Baltimore is going to show on Friday night. Between Soto and Turner, along with a host of other starters hitting over .300 in the last week, the offense will be leading the way. Baltimore has two stars on offense that Corbin will struggle with, but with Mullins and Mancini getting no help, the Baltimore lineup will be no issues for Corbin to navigate given his experience. Expect the Nationals' offense to light up and for Corbin to far outperform Lopez on the mound on Friday night, as the Nationals jump out to a win in the series opener.
Full-Game Total Pick
With two pitchers sporting ERAs above 5.5 aligning up against each other on Friday night, expect the runs to be flowing. For the Nationals, they already have one of the better offenses in baseball with the hottest hitter in the majors in Soto ready to go. For the Orioles, Mullins and Mancini are it, but they have more than enough firepower between them to do damage. According to covers.com, for the Nationals, the over is 4-0 in Corbin's last four interleague starts, is 4-0 in his last four starts against AL East opponents, and is 4-0 in their last four road games with the total set between 9 and 10.5 For the Orioles, the over is 3-0-1 in their last four Friday games, is 4-0 in their last four games following an off day, and is 4-0 in their last four interleague games. In games against each other, the over is also 5-1 in the last six meetings overall.