Baltimore Orioles (22-11) at Washington Nationals (22-12)
When/Where: Thursday, 7:05 p.m. ET, Nationals Park, Washington, DC
Moneylines: Orioles +104 Nationals -106/-114 TOTAL: 8.5
The Battle of the Beltway interleague series concludes a home-and-home set on Thursday night in D.C. as the Nationals host the rival Baltimore Orioles. This will have to suffice for bragging rights in that area unless the two sides meet in the World Series, which is entirely possible.
WASHINGTON — Dylan Bundy, who faces the Washington Nationals on Thursday, is finally arriving as a legitimate frontline starting pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles.
Bundy was a first-round pick and the fourth overall selection by the Orioles out of an Oklahoma high school in 2011. He missed all of 2013 because of injury and didn’t make the majors until 2016, when he went 10-6 with a 4.02 ERA in 36 games (14 starts).
Bundy (5-1, 2.17 ERA) will aim for his eighth consecutive quality start in the series finale against Washington and right-hander A.J. Cole (1-0, 1.50) on Thursday at Nationals Park.
It will be the finale of a home-and-home series that began Monday in Baltimore and continued Wednesday in the nation’s capital with a 7-6 victory by the Nationals in the bottom of the ninth.
Now Washington will try to even the season series at 2-2 against the best Baltimore pitcher.
“I think he is a great pitcher and has a lot of room for improvement,” Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy said of Bundy. “He is young, and he has a good head on his shoulder. He has a very high ceiling, if you will.”
Bundy, 24, is the first Orioles pitcher to make seven quality starts to begin the season since 1974, when left-hander Ross Grimsley did so.
No current Washington hitter has more than three career at-bats against Bundy. Third baseman Anthony Rendon has a homer in three at-bats against Bundy.
Cole is 0-1 with a 5.15 ERA in one career start against the Orioles. He gave up five hits (two homers) and four runs in seven innings against Baltimore last season.
He made his first appearance of the season Saturday in Philadelphia, and he gave up six hits and one run in six innings to earn the victory.
“I had a plan on each guy,” Cole said. “The defensive behind me really helped me.”
He will face an Orioles team that hit three homers in the first inning Monday in Baltimore against Washington starter Gio Gonzalez in a 6-4 victory. The Orioles then came back and won 5-4 in 12 innings on Tuesday night before the Nationals scored three in the ninth to win Wednesday.
“They are all good hitters. I will watch tonight and see how (Stephen) Strasburg pitches them,” Cole said before the Wednesday game. “You have to adjust to each hitter.”
Cole pitched in three games (one start) in 2015 as a rookie, and he made eight starts last season for the Nationals. The Florida native was 1-2 with a 5.17 ERA last year.
Bundy has faced Washington once in his career, getting a win last August as he allowed three hits and two runs in six innings.
The Orioles are trying to win the season series for the sixth year in a row.
Washington has the worst bullpen ERA in the National League but could get right-handed relievers Shawn Kelley (lower back strain) and Koda Glover (left hip impingement) back off the disabled list soon.
Kelley threw between 20 and 25 pitches in a simulated game Wednesday, while Glover tossed a scoreless inning for Double-A Harrisburg in a rehab outing against Erie. Kelley could be ready to come off the disabled list Friday.
“He was very happy,” Washington manager Dusty Baker said of Kelley. “I got a good report on Koda. He was not that far off (from a return). Both of them could be back (soon), possibly this weekend.”
CRUSH SHOT: OV 8.5