The Baltimore Orioles will look to finish a three-game road sweep of the World Series champion Washington Nationals on Sunday and will face a major hurdle while trying to do it.
Washington’s World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg will make his first appearance of 2020 in the series closer, facing an Orioles team that hit three home runs in a five-run eighth-inning rally for a 5-3 victory Saturday. Baltimore rolled to an 11-0 victory Friday night.
Strasburg has been out the first two weeks of the season due to a nerve problem in his right hand. Ready to go now, he will start Sunday although doesn’t figure to be around a long time.
“We’re going to watch him,” Washington manager Dave Martinez told reporters. “If he gives us 75, 80 pitches, I think that’d be awesome. But we’ll keep an eye on him.”
Strasburg was a key component of last season’s World Series run. He went 18-6 in the regular season, plus 5-0 in the playoffs.
Strasburg is 1-0 with a 4.00 ERA in three career starts against Baltimore. His return is key since the Nationals might have lost Max Scherzer to a hamstring injury. But the veteran told several media outlets he will not be out long and could make his next start.
MLB.com reported Saturday that Scherzer could be in line for a start on Tuesday if a bullpen session goes well. The Nationals want the veteran to slow down with his sprinting work.
The Orioles have scored 16 runs in the first two games of the series and are in second place in the American League East at 7-7 following their consecutive victories. They entered the series after losing three in a row to the Miami Marlins.
The Orioles were just starting to rebuild last year but they have more confidence and a good feeling in the clubhouse, said Saturday’s starter Thomas Eshelman.
“We have a great culture … as a team,” he told reporters. “This season, we have the mentality of ‘we know we can play as a team.’ “
Orioles manager Brandon Hyde likes what he is seeing from his returning players.
“I think you’re seeing … guys who have improved,” Hyde told the media.
Baltimore showed that Saturday when newcomer Pat Valaika led off the eighth with a pinch-hit homer, followed by Pedro Severino’s pinch-hit solo blast. Later in the inning, Anthony Santander sent a three-run homer to left field to finish the five-run frame.
It was the first time the Orioles have hit consecutive pinch-hit homers since 1985. And it was the first time it happened in the major leagues since the San Francisco Giants in 2018.
Asher Wojciechowski (0-2, 5.40) is scheduled for the Orioles on Sunday. He’s 0-2 with a 9.69 ERA in three career starts on three days’ rest, and there had been some question if newly recalled Keegan Akin might get the start. But it went to Wojciechowski.
Outfielder Cedric Mullins was optioned to the alternate training site at Bowie (Md.).
For Akin, his first appearance will be his major league debut. Mullins played solid defense but struggled at the plate to the tune of a .077 batting average in nine games. He is a career .190 hitter over 76 games.
–Field Level Media