BALTIMORE — Remember when the baseball powers that be in Baltimore and Washington created a rivalry between the two cities?
I mean, why not? Charm City and The District aren’t more than 50 miles apart. People commute to and from each town for business and pleasure with relative ease (beltway traffic doesn’t count, but maybe it should). Baseball fans in southern maryland or northern Virginia might have rooted for the Orioles before a team of their own came along in 2005 after saying au revoir to Montreal. It was Nats Nation from that moment on, and with interleague play it made sense to match up Baltimore and DC, Martha & The Vandellas style.
That pairing was fun. The Battle of the Beltways.
It’s somewhat of a distant memory now.
These Orioles are tough to watch. These Nationals are built for October, which gives the interleague games they play a little less flair.
So while an announced crowd of 36,139 came to Camden Yards for Monday’s Memorial Day clash, the game itself was anything but memorable.
Baltimore’s offense failed to show up against Washington’s Gio Gonzalez, who was 1-6 in his career against the Orioles before tossing 7 2/3 scoreless innings and getting the win.
The Orioles haven’t scored a run in the last 17 innings. So much for that vaunted offense.
And, they’re 20 games under .500 at the one-third mark of the season. It’s Memorial Day weekend, and you won’t find too many Orioles faithful flocking to the ballpark at this point of the year.
It’s a mess anymore — three times Monday an Orioles player led off an inning with a base hit, and each time the single was followed by a double play (Trey Mancini hit into two such twin-killings, for those keeping score at home).
Manny Machado, the soon-to-be gazillionaire playing for another franchise, singled in his first at-bat and continued his hot career numbers against Washington. The next three times?
A groundout to short in the third, a foul out to first in the sixth, for which he barely moved out of the batter’s box, and a popout to short in the eighth, with two men on base and two outs, during which he mustered enough strength to almost trot all the way down the line.
But hey, it was 6-0 Nationals by then. No need to exert one’s self.
Alex Cobb, one of the club’s two offseason pitching acquisitions, was serviceable. Seven innings, three runs, three walks, three strikeouts. But the three runs came in the third inning from a three-run homer by Anthony Rendon. And Cobb had two outs and no one on when the damage started, on his way to 1-7.
Richard Bleier was just as bad out of the bullpen in the eighth, and Washington padded its lead. Anyone not decked in Nationals red who stuck around for that made a break for the exits after Machado’s pop out to end the eighth.
So yes, Memorial Day brought with it another lackluster Orioles loss. They’re really starting to pile up.
This is the first time in quite a while Orioles fans have faced the reality of giving up on the current season and looking toward the future, bleak as it may appear. Although, the ineptitude really started around this time last year — since the one-third mark of 2017, the Orioles have lost 99 games.
Yuck. Makes the AL East championship season of 2014 feel like way more than four years ago.
There will be a roster cleanse. There has to be. It just won’t be until later in the season, much closer to the trade deadline, when teams in playoff contention start deciding which of their players and prospects they’re comfortable parting with.
Until then, it’s going to be two months of more losses than wins. And more tiresome baseball in Baltimore.
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At least Nationals fans can brag about their “Battle of the Beltways” wins. And their team should be playing in October.