BALTIMORE (AP) — The unpredictable nature of this wacky baseball season can best be summed up by the current status of a team that’s coming off two straight 100-loss seasons and a club that last fall won its first World Series.
Hard to imagine, but the rebuilding Baltimore Orioles are contenders and the defending champion Washington Nationals are sitting in last place.
Baltimore struck early against lefty Patrick Corbin and got a home run from Rio Ruiz in a 7-3 victory Saturday night, capping another disappointing day for the reeling Nationals.
Light-hitting Andrew Velazquez had two hits, scored twice and drove in a run for the Orioles, who have won seven of eight — a streak that includes four victories against Washington. After losing 115 games in 2018 and another 108 last year, Baltimore completed the first third of this abbreviated 60-game season with an impressive 12-8 record.
No one saw that coming, except perhaps for the Orioles.
“Our guys are playing with an attitude that they don’t care what people think and that they have nothing to lose,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “We’re a bunch of grinders.”
The Nationals, on the other hand, are being pressed to come up with an encore to their first major league championship. Hours after placing ailing right-hander Stephen Strasburg (hand) on the 10-day injured list, Washington fell into the NL East cellar with a 7-11 record.
“It’s just not going for us right now,” shortstop Trea Turner said. “But we’ve still got time, and I think that same mentality the last few years — you’re never out of it until you’re out of it. We feel like we’ve got time to play good baseball. Our best baseball is in front of us.”
Corbin (2-1) went 14-7 last season and was being counted on to carry the load for a starting rotation that’s gone stretches this summer without Strasburg and ace Max Scherzer, who was bothered by a sore hamstring. Corbin beat the Mets twice this month but was roughed up by the Orioles, who built a 4-0 lead in the second inning and held on.
Corbin allowed five runs and eight hits with just two strikeouts in five innings. Last year he finished fourth in the NL with 238 strikeouts and had as few as two in only one start.
“I wasn’t getting ahead of batters like I normally do,” Corbin said. “When you’re not doing that, you just put yourself in tough situations. I didn’t really figure it out all night, really.”
Juan Soto and Turner homered for the Nationals, who closed to 5-3 in the sixth but couldn’t complete the comeback.
Coming off a 15-3 beatdown by Washington on Friday night, the Orioles bounced back immediately. Pedro Severino, formerly of the Nationals, hit a two-run double in the first inning and Velazquez tripled in a run in the second before scoring on a fly ball by Hanser Alberto.
It was the first career triple and first RBI for Velaquez, who came in batting .136.
Ruiz led off the fourth inning with his sixth homer after Soto hit a two-run drive in the top half.
Asher Wojciechowski (1-2) allowed three runs in five-plus innings and Cole Sulser got four outs for his fifth save.
“I don’t care what people think. We know what we have here,” Wojciechowski said. “I’m not surprised at how we’re playing. We all believe in each other, and we’re here to win.”
Nationals: Strasburg (hand) threw only 16 pitches Friday night in his second start of the season, and manager Dave Martinez saw no option but to shut down the 2019 World Series MVP. “I don’t think this is going to get better soon. We tried,” Martinez said. “So right now, we’re just going to try see if we can get him healthy.”
Orioles: CF Austin Hays was put on the 10-day IL with a non-displaced rib fracture, an injury that originated when he was hit by a pitch several days earlier. Hyde expected Hays to miss the minimum 10 days. OF Cedric Mullins was called up from the team’s alternate training site. … RHP Jorge López was activated from the IL. He was obtained off waivers from KC on Aug. 9 and will be used initially as a long reliever.
Luis García was back in the Nationals starting lineup Saturday after playing second base and going 2 for 5 with an RBI in his first big league game Friday night. The 20-year-old stepped in for Starlin Castro, who went on the IL with a broken wrist.
Nationals: Scherzer (1-1, 2.75 ERA) starts in the series finale Sunday. He’s 2-0 with a 1.53 ERA and 50 strikeouts in his last five starts against Baltimore.
Orioles: LHP John Means (0-1, 7.71) makes his first start since Aug. 4 after spending time on the bereavement list and then undergoing mandatory coronavirus protocol.
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