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O's vs. Nationals preview: June 27-29

Could this season be the first time the Orioles finish above .500 since 1997? It's still too early to make a prediction, but it's going to be a lot easier if they continue to play competitive baseball against the top teams in the major leagues.

The Chicago Cubs had only lost eight home games until the Orioles entered Wrigley Field on Tuesday night. The Orioles became the second team this season to win a series against the Cubs in Chicago. The Milwaukee Brewers have beaten the Cubs in four out of six games – winning two different series – at Wrigley Field so far in 2008. At home, the Cubs are 30-4 against everyone except for the Orioles and Brewers.

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The Orioles are 7-9 against the four division leaders that they've played this season – the Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Angels and the Cubs. The team also has one suspended game against the White Sox that will be completed on August 25 at Camden Yards. That number may not be too flattering, but it's pretty good if you consider the fact that they were picked by most media outlets to finish with one of the worst records in the majors.

Now they'll take on the Washington Nationals in a three-game series to conclude interleague play for this season. The Orioles won two out of three games against the Nationals at Camden Yards in May. They are 10-5 so far in 2008 against the National League and the Nationals are 6-9 against the American League.

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Pitching matchups

Friday 6/27: Daniel Cabrera (5-3, 4.46) vs. Odalis Perez (2-5, 4.09)

Saturday 6/28: Garrett Olson (5-3, 5.01) vs. John Lannan (4-8, 3.34)

Sunday 6/29: Jeremy Guthrie (3-7, 3.51) vs. TBA

Who you should play from the Nationals

John Lannan, LHP – The best chance for the Nationals to win a game in this series is on Saturday night because Lannan is scheduled to start. Although he is only 4-8 this season, Lannan is 13th in the National League in ERA (3.34). He picked up the victory on May 18 when the Nationals beat the Orioles at Camden Yards, 2-1. Lannan allowed one run on four hits in 7 1/3 innings pitched in that game. He had five strikeouts and only issued one walk. Lannan has pitched at least six innings in 12 out of 15 starts this season, so expect him to pitch deep into Saturday's game.

Who you should bench from the Nationals

Lastings Milledge, CF – The one-time elite prospect in New York has been nothing more than a mediocre outfielder in Washington. Keep in mind that the 23-year-old center fielder has plenty of time to improve, so it's not time to give up on him yet. However, he shouldn't be counted on as an everyday fantasy player at this point in his career. In 78 games this season, Milledge is hitting .239 with seven home runs, 30 RBIs, 34 runs scored and 12 stolen bases. He is 4-for-37 in his past nine games, including two hits in Wednesday's game against the Angels.

Who you should play from the Orioles

Jay Payton, LF/CF – Payton made the most of his playing time during the three games against the Cubs. He was 4-for-10 with two home runs and seven RBIs in the series. Despite being a part-time player, Payton is now tied with Luke Scott and Brian Roberts for fifth on the team with 30 RBIs. He's not a long-term solution for your fantasy team, but Payton will certainly contribute in the near future. The Nationals will be starting left-handed pitchers in the first two games of the series, so Payton should have another opportunity to help your fantasy team. Don't be afraid to pick him up if you play in an extremely deep fantasy league and there isn't much on the waiver wire.

Who you should bench from the Orioles

Melvin Mora, 3B – It's hard to believe that Mora hit .340 and led the American League in on-base percentage (.419) in 2004. He's only hitting .233 so far this season. Mora has produced a lot of clutch hits, which explains his 38 RBIs. However, he's only hitting .197 with three home runs and nine RBIs in June. Mora was a borderline fantasy third baseman earlier this year, but there's really no reason to have him on your team anymore.

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