Fair warning to Sunday starters Jordan Zimmermann of the Nationals and Chris Tillman of the Orioles: Hitters on both clubs are feeling good about themselves heading into the series finale.
After the Nationals' bats snapped to life by slugging six homers in the opener of the series, marking the most they've hit in a game since moving to Washington in 2005, the Orioles put together a pair of four-run innings on Saturday to cruise to victory.
Orioles starter Jeremy Guthrie posted seven strong innings on Saturday, giving a bullpen that has been tested of late a break. Obviously, the Orioles could use a similar outing from Tillman, who has yet to go seven through his first nine starts.
"I think we know as starters what's going on, and we know that it's our job to go deep in the game and hand it over to the bullpen when necessary," Tillman said. "I think everyone now is just kind of grinding it out. You have the days when you have the whole bullpen, you have the days when you have none. That's baseball, and you just have to deal with it."
Tillman, who enters the game with a 2-3 record and 5.35 ERA, would like to get his command back to where it was two starts ago, when he had one of his three quality outings of this season.
Zimmermann, meanwhile, goes into Sunday's outing after having his last opportunity to start washed out and his turn in the rotation skipped. Scheduled to pitch 150 to 160 innings this season, Zimmermann didn't mind taking an extra day off after getting to 48 innings thus far.
"I feel fine with whatever decision they make," Zimmermann said. "It's probably better to get skipped now than toward the end of the season. If we are in the race or right where we need to be to make a push at the end of the season, that's the time I really don't want to be shut down. I want to be able to pitch, still have innings left and help the team out."
Nationals: Werth stays sharp in Interleague
Jayson Werth went 1-for-4 on Saturday, continuing his hitting ways against the American League. Over the past two seasons, he has hit .320, with 12 home runs and 29 RBIs.
He hit two home runs and drove in four runs against the Orioles in the opener.
"It's one of those things. It has worked out that way," Werth said.
In scoring 17 runs after being shut out in back-to-back games, the Nationals became the fourth team to score that many after consecutive blankings, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The first three teams were the 1918 Cardinals (22 runs), 1952 Indians (21) and 1964 Mets (19).
Orioles: Roberts' return not imminent Second baseman Brian Roberts met with the media for the time since going on the DL with concussion symptoms, confirming that the headaches started after he'd made a headfirst slide into first base on Monday at Fenway Park. He has yet to resume physical activities and is still experiencing motion sickness, so his stay on the seven-day DL might extend beyond the new concussion-related list's timeframe.
"It's certainly concerning," said Roberts. "It's not life and death, but when it comes to baseball right now, today it's not great. From talking to some doctors that deal with concussions a lot, I think we can get our arms around it, and I think that we can fix the problem. We can do things to hopefully make it better quicker. I don't think it's going to be anything that lasts like last year at all. But it's not fun right now."
After surrendering six runs in one inning in Friday's game, Jason Berken was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk, with Alfredo Simon called up a day earlier than expected. Berken will be used as a starter in the Minors. Simon, who spent two months in a Dominican Republic jail as the lead suspect in a New Year's Day shooting, was reinstated from the restricted list after pitching in three Minor League outings.
With a split of the first two games in the books, the Orioles now have a 17-15 advantage in the overall series with the Nationals since 2005. The Orioles won the season series last year, 4-2, but that was on the strength of a home sweep.
After their Interleague Play weekend concludes, the Orioles head to Kansas City to face the Royals in a three-game set that starts on Tuesday. The Nationals will head to Milwaukee for a three-game set with the Brewers that begins on Monday.