Admittedly, I have shrugged off the whole Orioles-Nationals rivalry thing over the years because the two teams just don't play enough to really foster any animosity.
But it struck me Monday night at Nationals Park that there was an extra energy in the announced sellout crowd.
I don’t know if it’s because both teams are good, or if Stephen Strasburg’s comments in July about how he hoped that at some point Nationals fans could drown out Orioles fans at the ballpark stuck with his club’s fan base, or if the MASN dispute has further angered Nationals fans.
Whatever it is, in the seventh inning Monday, when the Orioles had taken the lead and the home scoreboard was flashing “Let’s Go Nats,” Orioles fans were trying to best it with a “Let’s Go O’s” chant. And the place was buzzing.
“Oh, yeah. I noticed in the dugout,” Oriole starter Kevin Gausman said. “You know, it’s weird cause O’s and Nats [sound] kind of close. You definitely could tell it was more O’s than Nats, I thought.”
I’m certainly not one to want to stir up negative vibes between the two sides for my own enjoyment, but boy, it would be fun if this is how it is every time these two teams play each other going forward.
* Brad Brach threw two more perfect innings Monday, and he now has allowed just one hit in his last seven innings. He has a 1.13 ERA (three runs in 24 innings) in his last 14 games. Picked up in an under-the-radar offseason trade for minor leaguer Devin Jones, Brach has been tremendous for the Orioles.
“This is the best I've ever felt in my career,” said the 28-year-old Brach. “That’s a testament to Dave [Wallace] and Dom [Chiti]. They’ve done a lot for me this year just fixing a few mechanical things and just basically the confidence between my teammates and the coaches and stuff has meant volumes to me.”
* Chris Davis struck out three more times Monday. That’s 23 strikeouts in 48 second-half at-bats and 129 strikeouts in 329 at-bats overall this season.
Knowing how good he was last year, it’s painful to watch.
Davis did have a single and a walk Monday. And he made a stab on a grounder in the sixth inning with runners on the corners that may have saved two runs, keeping the Orioles just one run down until they could take the lead in the top of the seventh.
* Free-agent right-hander Jim Johnson hadn’t yet signed a contract with anyone as of Monday night. The sense is that decision will come soon. The assumption is he is choosing between clubs that would offer a better -- or more immediate -- opportunity to play in the majors and the emotional tug of the Orioles, who are stacked in the bullpen and would only offer a minor league deal.