For the first time, the Orioles and Nationals faced each other in a “Battle of the Beltway” series winning teams, with two games in D.C. on May 27 and 28 and two games at Camden Yards in Baltimore on May 29 and 30 all drawing large crowds.

From the outset of the first game of the series at Nationals Park, Washington starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez had control issues. After allowing only five earned runs and posting a 3-1 record in his previous four starts, Gonzalez gave up four runs and eight hits over 5-2/3 innings with four walks and three strikeouts as the O’s battered the Nats for 15 hits in a 6-2 win.

In the second game, Nats first baseman Adam LaRoche homered twice and drove in four runs as the Nationals barreled past the Orioles in a 9-3 victory. LaRoche, Tyler Moore and Roger Bernadina also went deep to support Nathan Karns, a rookie call-up who made a spot start but didn’t make it out of the 5th inning. His performance wasn’t a factor, as the Nats scored their most runs as a team since April 15.

For the third game of the series, the teams took a quick trip up I-95 to Camden Yards on May 29 for one of the most entertaining regular season games in recent Nationals history. Ryan Zimmermann single-handedly carried Washington’s offense early in the game with the first three-homerun game of his stellar career. His homers came during his first three at-bats over the first five innings, but the Oriole bats awakened in the 7th inning.

Third baseman Manny Machado continued to build his case as the best young infielder today, hitting the game-winning double off Nationals starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann to cap a six-run seventh inning. Orioles first baseman Chris Davis, who has emerged as a MVP candidate this season, went 4-for-4 at-bat with two homeruns in Baltimore’s 9-6 win.

Zimmermann gave up seven runs and 10 hits over six-plus innings, a testament to the Oriole bats as Zimmermann came into the game with a 1.71 ERA and a streak of 15 straight starts allowing three runs or less.

In the fourth and finale game of the series, journeyman pitcher Freddie Garcia shut down a Nationals lineup missing Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth, and Wilson Ramos, who are all officially on the disabled list. Garcia threw eight innings of three-hit ball to get the best of Washington’s Dan Haren in a duel of veteran right-handers and secure a 2-0 win.

Nats’ Analysis:
In pro sports, injuries are a part of the game. Teams must endure them, and if they cannot win during their particular spate of injuries, then the team will likely underachieve for the season.

That scenario is what the Washington Nationals face two months into the 2013 season. Mediocre and uninspired play has put this team in a precarious position as the Nats are failing to capitalize during clutch at-bats. The performance is costing them games in the standings to the suddenly-hot Atlanta Braves.

And the Nats aren’t just losing; they are losing in heartbreaking fashion. Whether falling into a season-long slump at the plate, losing a pitchers’ duel to a journeyman, or wasting great starts from ace pitchers, baseball in Washington just hasn’t been a pretty sight.

Orioles’ Analysis:
The Orioles have owned the Nationals nearly every time the two teams have met. But this series win was a little more impressive, considering the Nationals are actually a title-contending team now. The Orioles continue to prove they have one of the best batting lineups in Major League Baseball with hitters like Davis, Machado, Jones and Weiters. They also have an outstanding bullpen; the only thing holding the team back at this point is inconsistency from their starting pitchers. If the Orioles can rely on their starters, they’ll be perhaps the best team in baseball.

Nationals Player of the Week: Ryan Zimmerman—With 10 hits, three homeruns, five runs, five RBIs and a .357 batting average, Zimmerman was easily the most outstanding player for Washington this week.

Orioles Player of the Week: Chris Davis –No one in the MLB is hitting the ball as well as Davis this season, and he continued his stellar performance at the plate this week with 11 hits, eight runs, five RBIs and three homeruns.

Nationals Upcoming Schedule:
In a six-game homestand, Washington will face the Minnesota Twins from June 4 to 6, followed by a three-game series against the New York Mets on June 7 to 9.

Orioles Upcoming Schedule:
Baltimore will face the Houston Astros on June 4 to 6, and then will take on the Tampa Rays from June 7 to 9.

Dion Johnson and Perry Green

AFRO Sports Desk