There are a lot of people who really want to make this a rivalry, and while there have been some years in which both teams have been good for the most part, neither team has impacted the other’s on-field direction throughout the season. The Orioles actually lead the lifetime series against the Nationals, but most of the rivalry is based on the Angelos and how they have handled the television rights. The way both teams are playing so far in 2021, this series could go either way.
Friday, May 21: RHP Stephen Strasburg (0-1, 6.30 ERA) vs. RHP Jorge Lopez (1-4, 6.35 ERA) | First pitch 7:05 pm EST
There is not much to go on here when it comes to the Nationals against Jorge Lopez. There isn’t a single player on the team with more than 10 ABs against him. Lopez will throw his sinker and his fastball more than 50% of the time. Those pitches are okay for him, but the Nats should look to destroy his curveball. He uses it 21.8% of the time, and hitters are batting .474 against it while slugging .842. If the Nationals can take advantage of that pitch like the rest of the league has, this should be a fun game for the offense.
The Nationals are bringing their World Series MVP to the mound for the first time in over a month. When healthy, there is no denying that Stephen Strasburg is one of the best pitchers in baseball, but as always, health will be the question. Hopefully this start goes by without any issues and he is back where we need him for the rest of 2021.
Saturday May 22: LHP Jon Lester (0-2, 3.80 ERA) vs. Bruce Zimmermann (2-3, 4.79 ERA) | First pitch 4:05 pm EST
It’s more of the same with this pitching matchup against the O’s. There is no one on the Nationals that has experience against Zimmermann, and he has one pitch that the Nats need to focus on. This time, it is Zimmermann’s 91 mph fastball. He throws it 43% of the time, and batters are destroying it with a batting average over .400 and slugging over .800. Jon Lester, on the Nationals’ side, has faced a couple of the Orioles’ starters. Freddy Galvis and Maikel Franco both have over 10 ABs against Lester, but neither is hitting over .200.
Lester needs to focus on getting back on track. In his first three games as a National, he gave up a total of four earned runs. In his return to Chicago, he gave up 5. The O’s, on the surface, are a much easier matchup and I would expect to see Lester have a good start.
Thursday May 26: LHP Patrick Corbin (2-3, 6.10 ERA vs. RHP Matt Harvey (3-4, 5.93 ERA) l First pitch 1:05 pm EST
We were two days away from getting to see Strasburg prove once again that he’s better than the “Dark Knight.” As fun as that would have been, the Nationals will instead send out Patrick Corbin to face what is left of the Mets’ former savior. Corbin had a terrible April where he gave up 19 runs in four starts. In May, he is still giving up runs, but he has limited it to three or fewer in his four starts so far this month.
This is a guy who can provide the team some wins. Pedro Severino and Freddy Galvis have both hit Corbin well in the past, but if he can locate his elite slider, he should have a fine start.
The Orioles will send out Matt Harvey, who currently has an ERA of almost six, and unlike Corbin, he had an okay April but has fallen apart his last two starts giving up 13 runs in that time.
The Nationals’ starting lineup is littered with players that have done well against Harvey in the past, and I see no reason for that to change this time around. The Nats need to win a series here, and if the numbers hold true, they should not have an issue doing that.
Series Notes for the Nationals-Orioles:
- Josh Bell is turning his season around. In his last seven games, he has been hitting .320 and slugging .600.
- Schwarber is also having a pretty solid week, slugging over .600.
- Justin Maxwell will be in the booth once again.