Orioles, Nationals meet again in the rivalry that isn't - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Orioles, Nationals meet again in the rivalry that isn’t

Photo credits: Joy R. Absalon, Tommy Gilligan - USA Today Sports

BALTIMORE—On Tuesday, the Orioles play the first of two games at Nationals Park. It’s the conclusion of the annual home-and-home series with the Nationals, or, as some call it, “The Battle of the Beltways.”

On July 16 and 17, the Orioles and Nationals split a two-game series at Oriole Park. On Tuesday and Wednesday, the Orioles will face two of the Nationals’ toughest pitchers, Patrick Corbin and Max Scherzer. The Orioles will start Aaron Brooks and Asher Wojciechowski.

Two of every three years, the Orioles play four games with the Nationals. In the season when the AL East faces the NL East, the teams play two three-game series.

Each team in the majors has a team in the other league they play every year. Some of the pairings are easy and popular with fans: Yankees/Mets, Cubs/White Sox, Giants/Athletics and Dodgers/Angels.

It’s the same with the Orioles and Nationals. Although it’s clear that the teams play in separate cities with distinct differences, there are fans who root for both teams because they only play these handful of games against each other and they want to have a rooting interest in both leagues.

“I’ve only been in the two games involved here,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “That’s why I don’t know what it’s going to be like in Washington.”

Hyde was a Cubs coach for the past five seasons and experienced a fervent intracity competition.

“You’re either a Cubs fan or a White Sox fan,” Hyde said. “Those games are packed and loud and really a lot of fun to be involved in because in the city, everybody’s watching those games. There’s a lot of energy in the stadium.”

From 1997, when interleague play began, until 2005, the Orioles and Philadelphia Phillies met each season. In 2006, the year after the Nationals moved to RFK Stadium, the Orioles and Nationals began their annual series. The Orioles lead, 40-32.


With Adam Jones and Manny Machado on the Orioles and Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman on the Nationals, the games were often fun and full of memorable performances. With Harper, Jones and Machado gone and Zimmerman nearing the end of his wonderful career, it’s just not the same.

Neither team had a winning record from 2005-11 and both played in the  postseason in 2012, 2014 and 2016. In 2017, the teams’ fortunes diverged. The Orioles began losing and the Nationals kept winning and captured the NL East. This season, the Nationals are the NL wild-card leaders.

“We’re going to see a team that’s super hot and playing incredibly well and scoring a ton of runs,” Hyde said. “I thought we played them well when we were here and we split, and I’m hoping we can go there and play a couple of good ballgames against a couple of premier pitchers.

“… As we get better, I think the rivalry will mean more.”

The Orioles retain many fans in Washington, particularly in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, people who grew up rooting for them in the years when there wasn’t a team in Washington.

Orioles-Nationals games often draw well in Washington, and there’s usually a significant presence of Orioles fans.  This season’s two games here had crowds of 23,362 and 20,786, far above the average weeknight attendance at Oriole Park.

“It’s another game,” Orioles catcher Pedro Severino said of playing the Nationals. “It’s nothing different.”

Severino is the only player on the Orioles who’s played on both teams. He was obtained from the Nationals on waivers near the end of spring training. Washington outfielder Gerardo Parra has also played for the Orioles.

Trey Mancini has relatives in Bowie and growing up would often spend time in the summer with them. He likes playing the Nationals each season.

“I think it’s a real cool series that we do every year,” Mancini said. “I think it’s neat that we play the other local team every year, but it’s not anything you go into with more adrenaline or pumped than you normally would be. I think everybody here treats it like any other game.

“It’s cool for me personally just because I still have some family around there so they can see me play at Nats Park.”

Although the Orioles don’t feel any particular rancor towards the Nationals, that doesn’t carry over to the ownerships. The  teams have had a nasty legal dispute over MASN television rights for years, and last week a federal judge affirmed an earlier ruling that the Orioles owe the Nationals $296.8 million in television rights fees from 2012-16.

In the 15 years since the Nationals moved to Washington from Montreal, the teams have yet to trade with each other even as the Orioles have dealt with AL East rivals Boston and New York.

The games continue to be shown on the two MASN channels, and for several years there was a combined telecast using both team’s announcers. That proved unpopular with fans, and now the Orioles and Nationals broadcasts of the “Battle of the Beltway” series are separate.

Most Orioles fans would say their biggest competition is with the Yankees and Red Sox. Nationals fans might say the team they most like to beat is Philadelphia.

“As far as any sort of rivalry would be concerned, I don’t particularly see it that way,” Mancini said.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB



  1. Boog Robinson Robinson

    August 27, 2019 at 7:57 am

    As a life long O’s fan living in NoVa, I’ll never understand how a fan can simply switch allegiance to another team. Isn’t baseball an affair of the heart?

    • Orial

      August 27, 2019 at 8:16 am

      I think it’s the 12 year old baseball fan(all 3 of them)that will make a bigger difference in loyalty down the road.

    • The Cartoon Bird

      August 27, 2019 at 8:27 am

      It should be an affair of the heart…if you live in the same place for so long. For me, I’ve lived in 4 zip codes in 10 years. In Baltimore for the last 9. There’s a sense of guilt not to root for the hometown teams and cheer for them at their stadiums.

      Rivalries take time. They are organic. They are built on spontaneous moments no one expects. From my position, it is fun to play games against your closest geographic opponent. My hope is that the rebuild is successful and the Orioles can play these games with better teams in the future.

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        August 27, 2019 at 8:45 am

        I’m actually not a native Virginian. Moved every 2 to 3 years as an army brat. Fell in love with the O’s living in Baumholder Germany in 1969. Listened to them lose to the Mets on Armed Forces Radio. Watched them beat the Reds in 1970 after moving stateside. My allegiance is due to the fact that as a 9 & 10 year old, I wore their hat in little league. Still love the Cartoon Bird on that hat.

        • The Cartoon Bird

          August 27, 2019 at 9:11 am

          Thank you for sharing your story. I respect your allegiance. The decision to bring back the Cartoon Bird and the multi-panel home hat was a great decision. Even with its many iterations, it is an iconic and immediately recognizable logo.

          • Orial

            August 27, 2019 at 10:22 am

            I live in NJ,went to school(Towson) in 60s then moved away. I will follow the Orioles till the end.

        • DavisHasToGo

          August 27, 2019 at 4:41 pm

          In Baumholder in 1959 as a dependent…..every now and then we would get a game on AFN.

          Loved me some Bobby Boyd, , Billy Hoeft, Skinny Brown and the cocky new pitcher Milt Pappas…..:)

          Can’t have any other team although living in Mass for 14 years….well, you know…:)

          Love driving up from PW County in Va at least 2x a year. The Os will ALWAYS be my team. Even with Davis on the team.

          • Boog Robinson Robinson

            August 28, 2019 at 7:08 am

            Wow … you & I have a lot in common. Spent 1971 through 77 in Worcester … hated the Sox … AND i live in PW county.

  2. Orial

    August 27, 2019 at 8:19 am

    I will never be able to grasp how a suffering small to mid market team has to hand over $100 million to a mid to large market team. Sometning smells fishy Mr. Manfred.

    • NormOs

      August 27, 2019 at 8:29 am

      Orial, you got that right!

    • Bancells Moustache

      August 27, 2019 at 9:44 am

      I don’t understand how a team claims it is “small market” and can’t afford to spend in free agency, yet the team 30 miles down the road and getting a fraction of the TV money can plunk down 200 million for the best pitcher on the planet and not bat an eye.

      • Dominate The State

        August 27, 2019 at 9:53 am

        Excellent counterpoint!!

      • Orial

        August 27, 2019 at 10:24 am

        Yes that too. Another reason that giving over $100 million is sickening. Again something’s fishy.

      • Jbigle1

        August 27, 2019 at 6:12 pm


        You can actually look the stuff up. The Nationals pull in a hell of a lot more revenue down in DC. Median income is a whole hell of a lot higher as is the wealth. Really no surprise. 45 minutes from Baltimore you could be in Bear Delaware also. If there was a team there they’d probably spend 100 million less than the Orioles. It’s just the basic economics at play here.

      • WorldlyView

        August 27, 2019 at 6:48 pm

        Simple three word answer for Bancells’ question: commitment of management.

        • Jbigle1

          August 27, 2019 at 8:13 pm

          You guys could go ahead and take a look at the Orioles approx revenues during our playoff contending seasons and it didn’t make a difference. We don’t generate the same amount of cash as they do down in Dc. Could we do things better? Yeah, I’ve been highly critical of the way the O’s have operated in the past. The idea of us not being gigantic spenders because management chooses to take in massive profits is a false and lazy narrative. We don’t generate those kinds of dollars.

          I know for example the orioles had the highest payroll to rev % in baseball in 2017. And were right up there in years prior.

  3. cb

    August 27, 2019 at 9:01 am

    They should follow the terms of the contract both sides agreed to. Period.

    • ClayDal

      August 27, 2019 at 10:07 am

      The original agreement signed in 2005 allowed MASN ( Orioles) to pay the Nationals less in TV rights fees than market value for the years 2005-11. That was to help MASN get on their feet. After 2011, the Nationals had the right to negotiate market value TV rights with MASN. If they couldn’t agree MLB would have an arbitration panel set the figure. The Orioles agreed to that back in 2005. So it’s a mistake to say that the Nationals are violating the contract. The Orioles are the party that has dragged the litigation over the last 7 years or so.

  4. Mickraut

    August 27, 2019 at 9:03 am

    Agreed. If the Nats did not like the deal, they should not have signed the contract.

  5. SpinMaster

    August 27, 2019 at 9:05 am

    Rich: My memory is a little fuzzy regarding this issue with the MASN contract. When did the issue of MASN owing the Nationals so much money arise? Did the Nationals agree and work under this contract for many years without crying foul? Was it the Nationals or MLB who brought up the issue of the money owed.
    I agree with Orial above, this whole thing smells fishy to me. It is not like the Nationals are poor given their most recent contracts with Scherzer, Corbin, etc. They have traded for and are paying major league talent in Adam Eaton, Brian Dozier, etc. I just don’t understand how this dispute got started.

    • Rich Dubroff

      August 27, 2019 at 9:19 am

      When the deal was agreed to, no one thought cable television sports rights fees would explode as they have. The Nationals wanted a piece of the higher rights fees while the Orioles believe that a contract is a contract.

  6. Baltimore Castaway

    August 27, 2019 at 9:56 am

    The presence of the Nationals playing in Baltimore’s previous market and the nefarious and toxic undermining of the Orioles by MLB, along with the rapid deterioration of Public Safety in Downtown Baltimore is going to inevitably lead to the Orioles leaving Baltimore… you heard it here first.

    • Rich Dubroff

      August 27, 2019 at 10:15 am

      Why would MLB allow one of the most treasured stadiums in the Northeast be vacant?

      When teams in any sport move it’s generally because the stadium they will play in is inferior and they can’t get a new one built.

      Why would the Orioles move from a jewel of a ballpark elsewhere?

      As a longtime resident of Baltimore who lives less than two miles away from the ballpark, I reject the belief that the area near the stadium is unsafe.

      I’m there for every home game.

      Yes, there is crime in my neighborhood, but it’s sad that the belief exists that people can’t attend games downtown because it’s unsafe.

      It’s simply not true.

      • Bancells Moustache

        August 27, 2019 at 3:43 pm

        Why would MLB allow a nice stadium to be vacant? Because someone will build a nicer stadium in an area that generates more revenue. Camden Yards is a beautiful ballpark, but it’s also nearly 30 years old. Two very nice stadiums built after OPACY, Turner Field and The Ballpark at Arlington, are already vacant or being vacated.

        • Rich Dubroff

          August 27, 2019 at 8:32 pm

          While I’ve enjoyed The Ballpark at Arlington, neither was close to being the jewel that Oriole Park is.

    • CalsPals

      August 27, 2019 at 10:38 am

      My wife & I visited for the first time, from Ohio, walked from our hotel to Camden Yards both Friday & Saturday nights for games, had zero issues, felt way safer than walking in downtown Cleveland, Columbus or Cincinnati…go O’s…but never leave Baltimore…

  7. Buckler89

    August 27, 2019 at 10:51 am

    I grew up in Charles County, MD (Now live in Alexandria, VA) and I’m a lifelong Orioles fan, as my dad is a fan and brought me up watching the Os and going to games. Hell, every sport I played, no matter what team or sport, I always wore number 8. When the Nats came, I never considered switching sides and adopting them as my team. That being said, I still like to see them do well. Since the teams only play each other a few times a year and those games have had no playoff consequences and they can only meet in the WS anyway, I’ve never had any reason to develop animosity toward the Nats.

    When the two play, I’m obviously all in on the O’s. But otherwise, I’ll flip back and forth between O’s and Nats games and enjoy seeing the Nats do well. Most of the Os fans I know are the same way, including my Dad. We just don’t see it as a rivalry at all.

    • Rich Dubroff

      August 27, 2019 at 11:27 am

      Nice to hear from a new voice. Welcome Buckler. Your comments are appreciated.

      • Buckler89

        August 27, 2019 at 12:09 pm

        Thanks, Rich. I actually visit the site on a nearly daily basis, but never left comments. Love the site.

        • WorldlyView

          August 27, 2019 at 6:52 pm

          I love this site, also. Consistently well written, well informed comments to go along with Rich’s commentary. And kudos to Rich for regularly responding to commenters. Hope this stays a troll-free site.

          • Rich Dubroff

            August 27, 2019 at 8:33 pm

            Very nice of you to say, Professor Cohen.

        • Rich Dubroff

          August 27, 2019 at 8:31 pm

          That’s very nice of you, Buckler.

  8. cb

    August 27, 2019 at 10:10 pm

    I should have placed some bets on tonight’s game.

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