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Will April showers bring October pennants and Beltway Series? [The Driver's Seat]

Orioles Adam Jones strikes out in the first inning on April 4, 2016.
Orioles Adam Jones strikes out in the first inning on April 4, 2016. (Lloyd Fox / Baltimore Sun)

Laurel baseball fans hoping for a Beltway Series between the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals have had to remain patient the past few years.

The Orioles and Nationals both made the playoffs in 2012 and 2014, but Washington lost in the first round each year while the Orioles were eliminated in the American League Division Series in 2012 and the AL Championship Series in 2014.

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Those fans needed more than patience as the 2016 season began – they needed a strong umbrella and some good raingear.

Opening Day for the Orioles lasted two innings at Camden Yards on April 4 before rain forced a delay of nearly two hours. That meant Baltimore starting pitcher Chris Tillman, who was sharp in the first two innings, did not return to the mound after the delay.

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He was replaced by right-hander Tyler Wilson, a University of Virginia product who went three scoreless innings and the Orioles eventually won on a base hit by Matt Wieters in the last of the ninth to beat the Minnesota Twins.

The Orioles then endured a 21-minute rain delay in the seventh inning April 7 before beating the Twins 4-2 for a three-game sweep to begin the season.

Thursday at Nationals Park the scene was eerily familiar to Opening Day in Baltimore.

The Nationals, in their first home game of the season, sent right-hander Tanner Roark to the mound to face the Miami Marlins.

After Roark retired the Marlins in the top of the second, torrential rain came in from the northwest and forced the groundscrew to put down the tarp on the infield at Nationals Park.

The game was delayed one hour and 25 minutes. While Roark pitched two innings after the delay, the Nationals couldn't duplicate the late inning magic of the Orioles four days earlier.

National League MVP Bryce Harper hit a solo homer in the seventh inning to cut the margin to 6-4, but the Marlins held on to win by that score in a game that lasted 3:32 and ended at nearly 9 p.m. after a first pitch at 4:06 p.m.

The game time temperature was a comfortable 60 but was about 15 degrees less when Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy struck out to end the contest. Washington had arrived back in the nation's capital around 3 a.m. earlier in the day from Atlanta.

"It was a long game, short night," said Nationals manager Dusty Baker, who got lost on the Suitland Parkway trying to get to Nationals Park.

Another local pro team had its home opener the same day.

Unlike the Orioles and Nationals, the Bowie Baysox are the defending champions of their league after they won the Double-A Eastern League title for the first time in team history in 2015.

Bowie lost, 5-2, to Akron on April 7 in a game that featured – what else? – a rain delay of 36 minutes.

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But that didn't spoil a homecoming for Baysox infielder Jeff Kemp, who grew up in Bowie. He is one of three Baysox with local ties.

Outfielder Glynn Davis is a Baltimore native who grew up in Pasadena in Anne Arundel County and was signed as a non-drafted free agent by the Orioles in 2010 after he had played at the Community College of Baltimore County-Catonsville.

Kemp played at Archbishop Spalding in Severn and then at Radford University in Virginia before he was drafted by the Orioles in 2013.

Orioles fans didn't necessarily enjoy the offseason as they watched key players depart in free agency and learned of health setbacks for some of the stars who remained. Yet they've developed a deep faith in the players and decision-makers who brought winning baseball back to Baltimore.

First baseman Trey Mancini, the Orioles Minor League Player of the Year in 2015, grew up in Florida but his mother is from Bowie. Mancini would make trips to Bowie as a kid to see relatives and he remembers watching the Baysox and third baseman Ryan Minor, who eventually played for the Orioles.

"We have a really good core group of guys from last year," said Mancini, who spent part of last season with the Baysox. "It is nice having family around that comes to games. Jeff is very excited to be here."

Mancini could one day play for the Orioles, perhaps as soon as this year. Fans of the Orioles and Nationals who still hope for a Beltway Series can take solace that 2016 is an even year, as both teams made the playoffs in 2012 and 2014.

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