Nats, O's Clinch Playoff Spots—Could a Beltway Series Be Brewing?
There's plenty of baseball yet to be played, but for the first time ever, a Nationals-Orioles World Series is a real possibility.
It's been 15 years since the Baltimore-Washington area fielded a Major League Baseball team with a winning record, let alone sent one to the postseason.
But as of the final out in last night's Rangers-Angels game, the Orioles—improbably, unfathomably—became the second playoff-bound ballclub in the corridor, clinching at least a wild card spot for the first time this century. Their 6-3 win over Boston earlier in the day also kept the O's tied with the New York Yankees for first place in the American League East.
The Nationals' shining moment came 10 days earlier as Washington closed the deal on a postseason berth with a 4-1 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. This year marks just the second time the organization has made the playoffs and its first postseason run since the Montreal Expos became the Nationals in 2005.
To many local fans, the possibility of a Nationals-Orioles World Series—known colloquially as a Beltway Series—is tantalizing, and finally real. But with three regular season games left for both teams and three rounds of playoffs ahead, it's still something of a long shot.
The Nats open their final homestand Monday at 7:05 p.m. against the Philadelphia Phillies. Winning just one game—or Atlanta dropping one of its last three at Pittsburgh—would clinch a division title for Washington, setting them up for the best-of-five National League Division Series against a still-undecided opponent.
Three losses by the Nats and three wins by the Braves would set up a tiebreaking game Thursday in Washington, with the loser likely to face off against St. Louis for a shot at the NLDS.
For the O's, things are even more fluid. Baltimore opens a three-game series in Tampa Bay Monday at 7:10 p.m. The Rays, like the Angels, are one game away from elimination, but they've won an astonishing 9 of their last 10. The Yankees, meanwhile, begin a three-game homestand against Boston Monday.
Winning just one more game than New York would give Baltimore sole control of first place in the AL East, while losing just one more would push them back to a wild card spot.
If the Orioles manage to keep pace with the Yankees, they'll play a tiebreaking game Thursday in Baltimore. The winner would earn the division title, while the loser would drop down to the wild card play-in game, likely to face Oakland.
In short, both teams have done the seemingly impossible in 2012, but neither can rest on its laurels just yet.
So, baseball fans: what's your reaction to the embarrassment of postseason riches in the Baltimore-Washington region? Are your allegiances split? And how likely do you think a Beltway Series is? Let us know in the comments!