- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 28, 2009

— There are a handful of reasons why, in their sort-of rivalry, the Baltimore Orioles are a few steps ahead of the Washington Nationals in their quest to pull themselves out of the basement.

The Orioles have almost as many young starters in their rotation as the Nationals do, and they have a bullpen with several reliable options. But mostly they’re making a run at .500 while the Nationals are stuck with the majors’ worst record because they have more than a few position players who are showing why they’re going to be stars in the near future.

Most of those players have taken a turn stinging the Nationals in five games this year, four of them now won by the Orioles. Center fielder Adam Jones took his turn with three hits Friday night; left fielder Nolan Reimold did the job Saturday, lofting one of the stranger home runs he’s likely to hit in the Orioles’ 6-3 win.

But while the Nationals slogged through their 51st loss with several players not likely to be with them in a year, the Orioles showed again that their foundation — at least for now — provides firmer footing than their Beltways brethren.

Six days after getting beat up against the Blue Jays, starter Shairon Martis was only slightly better Saturday night. He threw 57 strikes among 98 pitches, the sixth time in eight starts he has failed to throw 60 percent of his pitches for strikes.

Martis was able to overcome his early control problems, striking out Luke Scott after he had loaded the bases in the first inning and stranding runners in the third and fourth innings. But he gave up a homer to Baltimore backup catcher Gregg Zaun on a 2-2 fastball in the second inning, the first of two homers the Orioles would hit off Martis.

The second of those two shots was decidedly more bizarre.

With two on and two out in the fifth, Nolan Reimold squared up a change-up from Martis and lofted it deep to left field. It hung in the air forever, as if suspended by a wire, as Josh Willingham tried to distinguish it from the dozens of circular white lightbulbs glaring back at him.

Willingham put his right hand and his glove up in the air, signaling he had lost the ball, and it reappeared a second later — just over the left-field wall. It was probably out of the left fielder’s grasp, but it might have been shallow enough that Willingham could have made a leaping attempt at it.

The three-run shot put Baltimore up 4-3. That lead would grow to two in the seventh, when Joe Beimel — brought in to face left-handers Nick Markakis and Aubrey Huff — gave up a solo home run to Huff.

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