Battle of the Beltways: Mentor vs. student, streaking pitchers face off
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Buck Showalter mentored Matt Williams during their time together in Arizona.
They'll meet as managers for the first time Monday night. One will send a pitcher to the mound with six straight home wins and the other will use a starter with six straight road wins.
Showalter's Baltimore Orioles and Williams' Washington Nationals play for the next four days, with Stephen Strasburg looking to notch his seventh straight home victory Monday as he squares off with Chris Tillman.
Williams played third base for the Diamondbacks when Showalter was the manager for that club from 1998-2000. Now they hold the same position, and Showalter said the success his former player is enjoying could be expected.
"He was a student," Showalter told MLB's official website. "The way he played the game, he was a good teammate. It doesn't surprise me at all."
Showalter's Orioles (48-40) have won six of seven to move into the AL East lead.
Williams' Nationals (48-39) have won seven of eight overall and at home and are a half-game behind red-hot Atlanta in the NL East. The first-year manager isn't worried, thanks to an approach he may have learned from Showalter.
"We have to I think worry about our own games," Williams said. "We can't worry about what they're doing or how they're playing or any of that."
This will mark the second straight year these clubs will play on four straight days, with the first two games in Washington before the clubs shift to Camden Yards on Wednesday.
The Orioles won three of four in 2013.
Strasburg (7-6, 3.53 ERA) gets the ball Monday after going 6-0 with a 2.08 ERA in his last nine home starts. He yielded one run over 7 2-3 innings Tuesday to earn a 7-1 win over Colorado, bouncing back after matching a career worst by allowing seven runs in 4 2-3 innings June 25 in a 9-2 defeat at Milwaukee.
"I just tried to execute pitches better," he said. "I wasn't trying to reinvent the wheel."
The right-hander has a 2.35 ERA at home compared to 5.13 on the road. He won his lone career outing against Baltimore by giving up three runs - one earned - over five innings in a 9-3 home win May 20, 2012.
Showalter will give the ball to Tillman (7-4, 4.21), who is 6-0 with a 5.53 ERA in 10 road starts. He's 1-4 with a 2.74 ERA in eight home outings. Tillman has posted a 6.00 ERA while not receiving a decision in his last eight interleague starts. That includes two outings against Washington in which he has a 6.52 ERA.
Nationals slugger Ryan Zimmerman has homered all three times he has faced Tillman. Zimmerman is 11 for 21 on this eight-game homestand. Baltimore star Nelson Cruz went 8 for 11 over the final two games this weekend as Baltimore took two of three in Boston.
The Orioles blew a five-run lead before winning 7-6 in 12 innings Sunday.
"That's the kind of game that the good teams win," Showalter said. "It's so easy to say, `Boy, it wasn't meant to be today,' instead of making it happen." Showalter revealed that he will put certain relievers off limits after his bullpen worked 12 1-3 innings over the last two days.