WASHINGTON — In a duel between two exhausted teams, the Washington Nationals received a sparkling performance from their starting pitcher.
The Baltimore Orioles did not.
And so, predictably, Washington breezed to a 6-1 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday night.
Joe Ross had a career-high 12 strikeouts in an unexpectedly sharp outing, and the Nationals took control with a four-run first inning against Alec Asher (2-4).
The game was a makeup of a rainout on May 11, and it was painfully apparent that neither team was happy about giving up an off day to participate in the delayed finale of the so-called Beltway Series.
Washington was coming off a nine-game, 10-day trip to the West Coast, and the Orioles had just finished playing two straight bullpen-draining, emotionally charged games against Pittsburgh.
“We’ve had two extra-inning games and you jump up and get on a bus, just like they get on a plane to cross the country,” Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said. “Usually it boils down to the only people that get normal rest — and that’s the two starting pitchers.”
Ross (3-2), by far, was the better of the two: He gave up one run and four hits over 7 1/3 innings, walked none, twice struck out the side and carried a two-hit shutout into the seventh.
“Tried to execute and keep the ball down,” Ross said. “Kind of made an adjustment from the last couple of starts.”
The right-hander entered with a 7.34 ERA after giving up a combined 12 runs and 19 hits in his previous two starts.
“He was calm. That’s what stood out,” manager Dusty Baker said.
Baker was equally impressed by the manner in which his team played following a cross-country flight that carried well past midnight.
“This team comes to play. They don’t complain about anything, which is what I like,” Baker said. “I don’t really like complainers. My dad didn’t like complainers.”
Stephen Drew homered into the second deck in right field and Trea Turner had three hits and a career-best three stolen bases for the Nationals, who scored five runs in four innings against Asher.
The Orioles played without third baseman Manny Machado, who sustained hand and wrist injuries upon being spiked on a double steal Wednesday night against Pittsburgh. Showalter also rested center fielder Adam Jones.
Baker, similarly, allowed three players to get their rest anyway: Ryan Zimmerman, Anthony Rendon and Daniel Murphy were not in the starting lineup.
The replacements, as well as the usual suspects, did just fine.
Turner walked and stole two bases in the first inning before scoring on an infield hit by Bryce Harper . Michael Taylor added a two-run double, and the Nationals were on their way to evening the season series against their neighboring rivals at 2-2.
“We put some at-bats together in the first inning and that was kind of the difference,” Turner said. “Drew had a homer late, but that first inning was huge for us and let Joe settle in and pitch really well.”
Drew made it 6-1 in the fifth when he lined Ubaldo Jimenez’s second pitch of the game into the right-field seats.
HARPER RIPS IT
Harper literally knocked the cover off the ball — to a degree anyway — in the second inning.
The slugger hit a foul ball off the plate. The impact tore away part of the baseball . After the bounce, the ball flopped and twirled outside the third base line.
Orioles: Machado had an MRI and X-ray that revealed no extensive damage. “Just sore,” Showalter said. “Hopefully it’s day to day. Though he didn’t dodge the slide, it looks like we might have avoided some more extensive damage.”
Nationals: OF Jayson Werth still has swelling in his bruised foot and won’t be coming off the DL anytime soon. “It’s not going to be quick,” Baker said. … LHP Sammy Solis threw a 40-pitch rehab assignment Wednesday in Florida. … RHP Joe Blanton (shoulder inflammation) began his rehabilitation assignment by pitching one shutout inning for Double-A Harrisburg.
Orioles: Dylan Bundy (6-4, 2.93 ERA) takes on the New York Yankees on Friday night in the opener of a three-game series in the Bronx. The Orioles are 21-13 against the AL East, including 7-2 against New York.
Nationals: Washington continues interleague play when Texas comes to town Friday night. Rangers 2008 draft pick Tanner Roark (6-2, 3.95 ERA) will start for the Nationals.
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