With last night's 8-4 loss, the O's dropped the first of three in this weekend's Battle of the Beltways in DC, the season series between the two teams is now knotted at two. While four runs over 18 hits isn't necessarily a good statistic, it really isn't as concerning as some people might make it out to be. The Orioles are having to surrender their DH, which means that Vladimir Guerrero is riding the bench. That's a huge loss of power for any team, and furthermore it affects the entire lineup in that guys have to move up and down in the lineup. Incidentally starter Zach Britton himself was one of the four hits with runners in scoring position (overall the O's were 4-for-15 with RISP) with a fourth inning RBI-double, his first big league hit. However when the O's lifted Britton and used Guerrero as a pinch-hitter he did drive home a run, so that in itself should tell Oriole fans what he means to this lineup.
While sitting under smoke gray skies at Nationals Park last night, I thought a lot about this series and how it compares to other regional rivalries. I suppose that the benchmark for all of them is NY's subway series between the Yankees and Mets. As an Italian-American, I'd be lying if I said that I had no NY relatives. Most of them are Yankee fans, and their attitude towards Met fans is that they aren't true NYers. Met fans' attitudes towards Yankee fans are that they're arrogant. In general, that's the pot calling the kettle black if I've ever seen it! Similarly we also have the battle of Chicago between the White Sox and Cubbies. That isn't quite as heated as the Subway Series, however I am pretty good friends with a Cub fan and he can't stand the White Sox.
What both of those series' have in common that's different with the O's and Nats is that both teams play in the same city. While Citi Field and Yankee Stadium aren't remotely close to each other, NY is still NY. The Yankee/Met/White Sox/Cubs players can all commute to the ballparks like they do for home games. In the case of Baltimore and Washington, we have two very different cities. While they may well be very close, the line between home white and road gray is much more well-defined than in the cases of Chicago and NY. One thing that this does have in common with the Subway Series is that you have one team that's been in the region/city forever, and another that's somewhat of a newcomer. The Yankees have been in NY for over 100 years, and the Mets came into existance in 1969. In this case the O's have been around since 1954, and the Nats since 2005. (Nationals' fans would argue that they had major league baseball well before Baltimore, however let's not get held up on technicalities; they were also without it for 30 plus years.)
I see the Battle of the Beltways (or mid-Atlantic rivalry as it's now being called) as more like series' such as Reds/Indians, Marlins/Rays, Astros/Rangers, or Cardinals/Royals. (While it doesn't compare in intensity, I would throw the Giants/Athletics more into the category of the NY/Chicago series' because even though Oakland and SF are different cities in theory the ballparks are six miles apart.) All of these cities are close enough together whereby fans could possibly travel to the other city and make a weekend out of going to the games in the other park, but far enough away to make it into a road trip. In contrast with NY/Chicago, the line between home white and road gray are much better defined.
One thing I find interesting is that in the past MLB has used the third weekend in May and the third weekend in June as the "regional rivalry weekends" so to speak. That's still the case in the mid-Atlantic rivalry (the two teams played the weekend before Memorial Day at Oriole Park, and again now in DC), however this season it seems that they're more spread around. The Yankees are playing the Cubs at Wrigley Field this weekend as opposed to the Mets. The Indians are playing host to the Pirates, the Blue Jays are in Cincinnatti, and the Angels in NY to play the Mets. The only other regional rivalries that are going on this weekend are the Giants at the A's, and the Royals at the Cardinals. I suppose that it helps them to televise more intriguing matchups (such as Yankees/Cubs) on a national scale if they spread the series' around a bit. For the record, some teams don't even have regional rivals; the league tried to market the Phillies and Red Sox for awhile but that in essence was just another series for both teams. When interleague play started I was against it because it went against tradition. However I do like these matchups because I think it causes a stir around the league, allows different people to see different ballparks, and it helps to put different teams on the map. The only thing that you can really compare to this in sports are perhaps the NY Giants/Jets, NJ Nets/NY Knicks, NJ Devils/NY Rangers/NY Islanders, and Duke/Carolina. These games are all special, and I'm glad that MLB allows it's fans the luxury of embracing them.