For the Baltimore Orioles to make a serious surge toward a playoff spot, they know they have to right themselves this week, starting Tuesday night in Washington, D.C., in the first of a two-game interleague series against the Nationals.
“There’s a lot of encouraging going on,” Baltimore manager Brandon Hyde said of interaction between the players. “I think guys are very aware of the standings.”
The Orioles (73-67) have only won two of their past eight games, dropping 5 1/2 games behind the Blue Jays for the last wild-card spot (Toronto has a doubleheader scheduled for Monday night).
Baltimore has scored only eight runs over its past four games.
“It’s a little bit of a domino,” Hyde said. “We ran into this early in the season also where guys tried to do too much at the plate. Our rallies honestly have come in the last few weeks from walks and getting traffic that way. We’re not stringing hits together. Got to get better.”
Hyde pointed to an overly aggressive approach, which also caused some of the early struggles.
“We’re taking big swings and getting into bad counts,” he said.
Washington (49-92), too, is struggling. The Nationals have lost five of their past six, closing a road trip by being swept in a three-game series in Philadelphia.
“We get to regroup a little bit,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said, not unhappy with Monday’s off day.
The road trip for the Nationals was filled with playoff contenders, but after they took two of four from the New York Mets, they dropped two of three in St. Louis and then all three in Philadelphia, for a not-terrible 4-6 mark.
“We showed (what we’re capable of), staying with all these good teams,” Nationals reliever Kyle Finnegan said.
Finnegan was victimized in two of those losses, when the Cardinals clobbered him for five ninth-inning runs for a 6-5 decision on Wednesday, and then Sunday when the Phillies’ Alex Bohn smacked him for a two-run homer in the seventh inning that wrecked a tie game in a 7-5 Nationals defeat.
The Nationals and Orioles split two June games in Baltimore. Now, the Nationals look to put a big dent in the aspirations of their American League neighbors.
Several Orioles had reduced workloads Sunday. Notably, Adley Rutschman was given a day off from behind the plate, in part because he had taken a foul ball off a foot Saturday.
The Orioles are banking on right-hander Dean Kremer (6-5, 3.23 ERA) to help them get back on track. In his past seven starts, he has worked into at least the sixth inning, giving up only one home run during that stretch of 43 1/3 innings.
Baltimore could have a boost for the bullpen with reliever Felix Bautista cleared to pitch after a slight pause because of arm fatigue. He could remain in a closer’s role.
“I might not go two innings with him, but I think we’ve managed him pretty well,” Hyde said.
The Nationals will go with right-hander Cory Abbott (0-2, 4.22). Abbott will be making just his second start since Aug. 17, having made four of his past five appearances out of the bullpen. In his most recent start, Wednesday, he went 4 1/3 innings and left trailing 1-0 before the Nationals rallied for a 5-1 lead until the Cardinals piled on Finnegan in the ninth.
Neither starting pitcher has faced this opponent in his career.
–Field Level Media