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A Beltway Battle that finally matters

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A Beltway Battle that finally matters

There's a bit of a misnomer circulating around the region that this weekend's Battle of the Beltways marks the first time winning baseball teams from Washington and Baltimore have ever faced each other.

Not true. On April 16, 1970, the 4-3 Washington Senators traveled up the road to Memorial Stadium and beat the 5-2 Baltimore Orioles before a rabid throng of 4,674. Frank Howard homered off Jim Palmer. Davey Johnson went 0-for-3 with a walk.

It was a rare, shining moment for baseball in the District against its rivals from Charm City, a perennial American League contender in the 1960s and early 1970s while the Senators languished at or near the bottom of the junior circuit.

"It never was much of a rivalry, because the Orioles used to do a little whupping up on people over here," Johnson said yesterday. "But right now, I think we're evenly matched ballclubs, pretty good, young clubs. So I'm excited about it, and hopefully the fans around will be excited."

Indeed, there's plenty of reason for fans of both local baseball teams to be excited about the latest interleague matchup between the Nats (23-15) and O's (25-14), who for the first time in more than four decades find themselves squaring off while sporting winning records.

Actually, tonight's series opener would have pitted a pair of first-place clubs if not for the Nationals' 5-3 loss to the Pirates last night, which coupled with the Braves' win dropped Washington to 12-game back in the NL East.

Nevertheless, this weekend perhaps offers a glimpse into what many around baseball hoped could be the case when the Expos relocated to the District eight years ago: Two successful franchises in these two, connected markets.

There's been precious little on-field success for either the Nationals or Orioles since then. Though each did surprisingly find themselves in contention early during the summer of 2005, each wound up fading down the stretch and finishing well back of the pack.

The Nats franchise hasn't posted a winning record since it won 83 games in Montreal in 2003 (managed by former Orioles great Frank Robinson). Baltimore hasn't finished above .500 since the 1997 club (managed by Johnson) captured the AL East crown with 98 wins.

There's a strong sense around South Capitol Street that this Nationals squad will finally get over the hump this season, led by the majors' best pitching staff. There's still some skepticism over the Orioles' chances of maintaining this pace, though with each passing day they're winning over more supporters.

"I follow them," Johnson said. "I watch them on TV. I know what kind of a lineup they have. It's pretty potent. They've got some great young pitchers."

Whether this ever develops into a true rivalry remains to be seen, especially with realignment next year shaking up the way interleague games are scheduled.

For now, both sides can simply enjoy this new, winning component to an annual series that to date has meant far more to fans than to the men in uniform.

"I just hope I don't hear during the National Anthem the 'O's' too loud," Johnson said.

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MLB Power Rankings: The Royals arrived, just in time

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MLB Power Rankings: The Royals arrived, just in time

Just when everyone was writing the 2016 Kansas City Royals' obituary, they win 9 in a row and plant themselves in the thick of the playoff race. It's possibly the most Royals thing in the world to do. How did the other teams fare? To the rankings! 

30. Atlanta Braves (LW: 30)

Adios, Jeff Francoeur. 

29. Minnesota Twins (LW: 29)

It's still weird to think that before this season, people thought they'd be a playoff team. 

28.  Arizona Diamondbacks (LW: 28)

Matt Wisler looked dominant in his almost-no-hitter of the Diamondbacks. 

27. Cincinnati Reds (LW: 25) 

The Joey Votto offseason trade rumors are starting to heat up! 

26. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (LW: 26)

Are there really rumors that the Angels are the team seriously looking into Tim Tebow?

SEE THE REST OF THE RANKINGS HERE

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Podcast - 'Baseball in the District' - Nats make the traded they needed

Podcast - 'Baseball in the District' - Nats make the traded they needed

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On this week's episode of 'Baseball in the District,' Tim Murray and I began by breaking down the Nats' recent trade for lefty reliever Marc Rzepczynski, how he will fit in their bullpen and how much they potentially miss Max Schrock, the prospect that they gave up.

We then discussed Katie Ledecky's appearance at Nationals Park and her interview with the media. That got us talking about the most awkward experiences we've ever had with famous people.

Also in this week's episode was talk about Trea Turner's impact this season and whether he is currently the Nats' most complete player. Mixed in is our thoughts about the Beltway Series and why the O's have had the Nats' number.

Feel free to share your opinions with us on Twitter @ChaseHughesCSN and @1TimMurray.

You can listen to the show on ESPN 980's website or download the show on iTunes.

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Marc Rzepczynski excited to join Nationals in middle of pennant race

Marc Rzepczynski excited to join Nationals in middle of pennant race

The Nationals announced they had activated reliever Marc Rzepczynski to their roster at 5 p.m. on Thursday, yet at that time the lefty was 30,000 feet in the air. He was on a cross country flight, having left after a delay from San Francisco. 

He eventually landed at Dulles Airport in Sterling, Va. and made the drive to 1500 South Capitol St., where the Nats were in the middle of game against the Baltimore Orioles. Rzepczynski threw his jersey on and got right to work, even warming up in the eighth inning for a potential debut with his new team.

That debut did not happen, it will have to wait at least one more day, but Rzepczynski was thrilled to be with his new team, a first-place club, after coming over from the 55-72 Oakland Athletics.

"It's amazing. At the end of the day, with a team that's losing, your'e making plans for the offseason already. Then, all of a sudden, hopefully I have a chance to play in October," Rzepczynski said. "It was one of those where it reminded me a lot of '11 when I was with the Cardinals. Being traded at the deadline, then all of a sudden winning the World Series. So, hopefully I'll have the same thing happen here."

Rzepczynski actually found out he was traded on Wednesday. Like Mark Melancon, whom the Nats traded for in July before the deadline, Rzepczynski heard the news after awaking from a nap.

"I'm excited. Little bit in shock. I've been traded, now this is my fifth time. Three times at the deadline. This one got me a little bit. I was quite shocked yesterday. I was actually taking a nap when this happened. We had a day game, so I was just relaxing," he said. "I'm definitely happy to be here. To go from a team that's struggling a little bit to a team that's in first place. What else would you ask for at this time of the year?"

Rzepczynski joined the Nationals in a deal that sent infield prospect Max Schrock and cash to the Athletics. The Nats brought in some help for their bullpen, hoping Rzepczynski can deepen and balance out their relief staff.

Rzepczynski - who has a 3.00 ERA in 56 games this season - described in detail what type of pitcher the Nats just acquired.

"For me, it's just sinker inside or away to lefties. That's not a secret. Every lefty, now that I've been in the AL twice and the NL now three times too, they know what they're facing. I'm just going to go out there and compete and do my job. I was struggling earlier getting lefties out. I feel like I'm back now. I feel like I'm ready," he said.

Rzepczynski is likely to make his Nationals debut this weekend against the Colorado Rockies. He's arrived just in time, as the Rockies boast several dangerous left-handed batters including Carlos Gonzalez, D.J. LeMahieu and Charlie Blackmon. More sinkers inside.

[RELATED: Max Scherzer digs down deep to help Nats, shut up Orioles fans]

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