Friday, June 17, 2011

The Beltway Series Part Deux

By Ben

It’s Friday, the work day is winding down, and the weekend is close.  Are you pumped for the weekend? We here at the Battle of the Beltway certainly are and it has nothing to do with the U.S. Open being held in Bethesda. Quick sidebar: The DMV (D.C. Maryland, VA, not the Department of Motor Vehicles) is notorious for traffic and gridlock, but this golf tournament has really fouled up everything and made driving around this area a friggin nightmare! And Tiger isn’t even playing this year! That’s like turning on this season of the Bachelorette and hearing Bentley is gone. Or perhaps if you don't watch The Bachelorette, its like Ocean’s 15 replacing Clooney, Pitt, and Damon with Mark Paul Gosselear, Joey Lawrence, and Randy Jackson. 

Sorry for that, now back to the task at hand…

The epic finale is upon us. No I’m not talking about another ridiculous rapture rouse, but the much anticipated conclusion of the 2011 Beltway Series.  The Orioles held serve and took 2 of 3 on their turf, but tonight the series moves down I-95 to Nationals Park. (Let’s hope the Birds don’t get stuck in the U.S. Open traffic which is trending on twitter…) The Nationals have won six straight games including a very impressive sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals.  The Orioles have looked awesome at home, and brutal on the road.  Buck Showalter’s mom must be cooking team dinners for the home games. The O’s return to the land of the free and the home of the brave after losing 2 of 3 north of the border.  I guess those Blue Jays can really swing the bats, eh? We are not going to bore you with a long diatribe on why we think either one of these teams is going to win this series, but merely just highlight some positives and awkwardly stare at the negatives (M-A-R-Backwards K Reynolds) like that hairy mole on your bosses left cheek. 

The pitching matchups for the three game tilt are pretty solid, well at least the first two games have solid pitching matchups.  Tonight we have the Orioles young sinker baller Zach Britton (6-4 3.18 ERA) going against the resurgent Jason Marquis (7-2 3.67 ERA).  It appeared that after a very strong start to the season, the league began to catch up with Britton and he seemed almost mortal.  ZB has rebounded nicely and reverted back to form and is carrying a solid string of 2 starts into tonight’s duel with Marquis.  What can you say about Marquis? He was an All Star in 2009 with the Rockies so the Nats opened up the checkbook and signed him to cushy 2 year $15 million deal.  To say Marquis’s 2010 season was disastrous is an understatement.  That’s like saying “Weinergate” has only dented Anthony Weiner’s political career.  However, Marquis was trying to pitch through an injury because he felt the pressures of the big contract and his numbers suffered. Marquis really took it upon himself this off-season to get right and he has emerged as a leader of the staff.  Tonight should be a dandy, and we will be enjoying it from the eagle’s nest known as the Red Loft. 

Saturday’s game features the two teams' top (healthy) pitching prospects in Brian Matusz, freshly of the DL and the Nats young hurler Jordan Zimmermann. Matusz looked sharp in his first start off the DL, but in his most recent start he looked just a shade above awful. Scratch that, he was awful. His line read 1.1 IP 4 BB’s 5 runs (4 earned), which led many to speculate he is still not healthy.  Zim Jr. (Ryan is Zim Sr. of course) on the other hand has really come on strong this season.  His record is 4-6, but his ERA is 3.10.  Any baseball fan worth their salt knows the ERA is more telling than the win loss record. The month of June has been very good to ZJ (for you Beerfest fans out there) as he has an ERA of 0.86 in 21 innings pitched.  Scoring runs off this guy is like holding in farts after a bowl of chili from Hard Times.

The term “Sunday Funday” has many meanings.  For some it means getting hammered on a Sunday just because they can/they’re raging alcoholics.  My roommates in college know that Sunday Funday has a completely different meaning for me personally, but that’s inner circle shit right there.  In college baseball, games played on Sundays are known as Sunday Funday’s because generally most teams have used up their better pitchers throughout the week and over the weekend.  This leaves the lesser pitchers to go on Sundays and thus Sundays can become Homerunapaloozas.  Well that is exactly what we are looking at here on Sunday.  Chris Jakubauskas gets the nod for the Birds while Tom Gorzelanny toes the rubber for the Nats. Jakubauskas is a spot starter for the Orioles and he has been inserted into the rotation thanks in large part to Chris Tillman and Brad Bergesen and their inabilities to pitch like professionals.  Simple Jak hasn’t pitched that badly, but you know what you’re getting out of this guy, 4-5 innings and hopefully the game is still within reach.  Gorzelanny, or as he is known by his buddies, “Tommy Gorz” is 2-4 right now with an ERA of 4.25.  Neither pitcher is a household name, nor will they ever be.  All I all it should be a high scoring game and it will all come down to the bullpens. Over/Under 2.5 runs given up by Mike Gonzalez on Sunday alone? I’ll take the over. 

This weekend’s series is being played at Nationals Park which means National League rules, i.e. no designated hitters and the pitchers will bat.  I always love seeing young AL pitchers get at bats because either they think they are hot shit and swing out of their shoe tops, or they have been instructed by their managers to NOT SWING THE BAT, PERIOD.  Knowing Buck, he has told his pitchers that if they do not swing then they should pack their belongings and not get on the team bus.  This also means Vlad Guerrero will not be getting any starts for the Birds.  He will more than likely be the first option to pinch hit for the pitchers, but not having him in the lineup for 4-5 at bats per game is really going to hurt the Orioles.


The long and ubiquitous title is meant to make you chuckle, but also to draw your attention to a couple of players who are riding some impressive hot streaks heading into the series. If you do not know why Shaq might be in hot water, then you should probably read this.

No one on the planet is hotter than Big Mike Morse right now, with the exception of Michelle Beadle.  Over the past month “The Code” (get it? Morse code. Geez, sorry for the high brow humor) has hit .365 with 10 homers and 29 batted in.  He has solidified the lineup, and he has provided protection to fresh-of-the-DL Ryan Zimmerman.  I’m kind of stoked to see what kind of numbers these two can put up hitting back to back in the lineup.  Hey Rizzo, maybe you should have listened to your constituents in the front office and given the job out right to “Beast Mode” rather than signing Adam LaRoche and his .190 BA. Typical, Riz.  Even Andy McPhail knew better then to sign LaRoche.

Danny Espinosa is finally starting to put up the numbers Nats fans were all expecting.  The month of June has been very good to Danny Boy as he has pumped his average up 30 points and he has stroked 7 homers, including last night’s walk off blast.  Expect his numbers to continue to improve Nats fans.

Jayson Werth has homered in two straight games, each homer costing Mr. Lerner $5 million dollars.  Another dynamite decision by the Riz.

As for the Orioles, well there aren’t any players who are as scalding as these guys, but there are some guys making waves.  J.J. Hardy known by the men and women of Birdland as “The Hardy-On” has really taken to being the leadoff hitter for the Birds.  The Hardy-On had never hit leadoff in his career until Buck told him he would be.  In his first two games in the leadoff spot, The Hardy-On lead off both games with home runs.  In the past two weeks Hardy is hitting .395 with 4 homers, 4 doubles, and 8 RBIs. 

I wouldn’t exactly say Nick Markakis is on a hot streak, but he is starting to turn it on a bit after enduring a pretty woeful first couple of months to the season.  His grand slam against the Rays last week was his first extra base hit in lord knows how long.  Nicky is hitting .357 over the past week and he did have a pretty solid series vs. the Blue Jays, yet he hasn’t fully emerged from the slump because he is still struggling with runners in scoring position which has been his M.O. since coming into the league.

In a nutshell, the Nats offense is cooking right now, whereas the O’s offense is merely preparing the meals.


Baseball is a funny game where they say that if you fail 7 out of 10 times, you’re a Hall of Famer. Meaning, if you go up to bat 10 times and get 3 hits then you ‘re a .300 hitter.  Our hitting coach in college always told us, “the hardest thing in sports is to hit a round ball with a round bat squarely, and yet we do it.”  This statement could not be truer, and over the course of a season everyone goes through slumps.  As a hitter, sometimes it looks like the pitcher is throwing you beach balls, and other times it looks like he’s throwing tic-tacs.  There are many ways to break out of slumps; clearing your head, staying in the cage to get extra hacks, but the most effective way is finding yourself a “slumpbuster”.  “Slumpbusters” are as much a part of the game as homeruns, hanging curveballs, and hot dogs.  What I am about to reveal to you all is a sacred baseball tradition that few know about. Am I breaking the cardinal rule of the locker room? Maybe, but before you go and call me Jose Canseco just know that “slumpbusters” may be a performance enhancers but they’re not a syringe full of D-Bol.

“Slumpbusters” are an endearing term for plus size women.  When a player is going through a slump at the plate it is his duty to his team and his livelihood to walk into the nearest, bar find himself a pleasantly plump lady, and take her home for the evening.  The Baseball Gods (which are more real than any of you can possibly fathom) must love fat women because anytime a ball player hides his sausage in a big gal’s gravy pit, he comes out the next day hitting lasers.  If you’re ever in a bar and baseball players walk in, it will be easy to spot the guy whose in a slump based on the ladies he is chatting up. Every ballplayer believes in this old adage, and firmly abides by it. In fact there are a few rotund beauties I need to thank for helping me along the way throughout my playing career.

So here are a few players in need of the warm embrace of a 250 lb. lady.  And remember, the larger the woman, the bigger the slump the guy is in!

The Topanga (Think during the college years of Boy Meets World): Adam Jones was having a really nice stretch, getting his average up to .300.  Yet as of late he has seen it dip back under after an absurd amount of strikeouts in the Toronto series.  He is hitting .179 over the past week, time to get the train rolling again Jonesy.

The Kirstie Alley:
Derek Lee, 4 for his past 31.  LMFAO just wrote a new song called “D-Lee Anthem (Everyday I’m Scuffling)”

 The Lori Beth Denberg (Remember All That! on Nickelodeon?): Rick Ankiel, .167 over the past month.  He is more helpless at the plate than Chris Snyder is in a car.

And as for you M-A-R-Backwards K Reynolds.  I understand that you have hit 5 home runs over the past two weeks, and are hitting .286 in that span.  But if I have to watch you strike out looking, or swing through another fastball with less than 2 outs and a runner on third, I’m going to lose my mind.  Not even banging Madea could get you out of this slump, in fact this isn’t a slump. You are what you are sir, and that is a .200 hitting strikeout machine who makes more errors at third base then a third grader on a spelling test!  Other than that, keep up the good work.

The Orioles lead the 2011 Beltway Series 2-1 and the Nationals have won six straight ball games so it should be a very interesting and entertaining weekend.  When the weekend is over and it is all said and done, will we hear Enrique’s big hit “Tonight I’m Buckin You”, or Boston’s classic “Morse Than a Feeling”?

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