Major League Baseball

Nationals aim to stay hot in set vs. Orioles

usa_today_106650256989970458680346769.jpgNATIONALS (49-43) AT ORIOLES (28-65)
7:05 p.m. ET; MASN, MASN 2, MLB.TV

The Washington Nationals have been one of the hottest teams in baseball over the past several weeks and now they come to Baltimore on Tuesday night to open a short two-game series against an Orioles’ team that’s struggling in many ways.

Washington just took two of three from the Philadelphia Phillies this past weekend and is part of the playoff picture in the National League.

Max Scherzer, arguably the hottest pitcher in baseball, was going to start this game, but the Nationals put him on the injured list retroactive to July 10 (mid-back strain). Instead, the Nationals appear to be going with right-hander Austin Voth (0-0, 5.52 ERA), who will be making his first career appearance versus Baltimore.

The Orioles will start Asher Wojciechowski (0-2, 6.10), making his third start with Baltimore. The right-hander has no career record and a 1.29 ERA in two appearances against Washington.

For the Nationals, there’s also questions about who will start the second game. It might be Stephen Strasburg because that’s his normal turn but Washington goes to first-place Atlanta — the Nats are in second — after this for a weekend series, and he could start the opener if he doesn’t take game two of this series. So that decision will need to be made.

The Nationals’ last game was a tough loss, a 4-3 walk-off defeat in Philadelphia Sunday where Maikel Franco belted a homer in the ninth to end things. But Washington won the first two games of the series, including a walk-off win the night before.

That’s what manager Dave Martinez liked about the trip to Philadelphia. Washington still took two of three.

“Hey, we battled back,” Martinez said to MLB.com. “We were down, we battled back … and (we) came here and won two out of three.”

Washington has been doing a lot of winning since late May. The Nationals fell 12 games below .500 on May 23 and have won 30 of 42 since then.

Baltimore, however, has been struggling the entire year during the first steps of a rebuilding process. The Orioles lost two good starting pitchers over the weekend, and that’s going to make life harder for them.

First, they placed right-hander Dylan Bundy on the injured list due to knee tendinitis. He allowed seven runs in the first inning of Friday’s 16-4 loss to Tampa Bay and came out. The pitcher was put on the IL the next day.

That also was the day Baltimore traded away clubhouse leader Andrew Cashner to Boston for two 17-year-old minor-leaguers. The move was not a surprise, but it did come early as the trading deadline won’t be until month’s end.

Cashner was supposed to start Sunday’s game against the Rays, and the Orioles had to call up Tom Eshelman from the minors to make the start. He didn’t pitch badly and allowed four runs in 5 2/3 innings for his first major league loss.

So, the Orioles, at least for the next 10 days, are going to have to figure out how to fill those two holes. Plus, top starter Alex Cobb is out for the year after undergoing surgery and appearing in only three games.

The Baltimore offense also hasn’t been producing much lately. Trey Mancini is 0-for-21 since July 5 and his average has fallen to .281.

Plus, in the last Orioles’ game, the Tampa Bay pitchers retired the first 24 batters and took a perfect game into the ninth inning before Hanser Alberto broke it up with a single to start the frame.

“I saw a little frustration from our guys today toward later on in the game, which I think is OK,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said via MLB.com. “They were showing some emotion about, they don’t want to be embarrassed, so yeah, you’re just hoping and wishing that somebody’s going to get a hit.”

–Field Level Media

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