Washington extended its winning streak to four games with a 6-0 victory over Baltimore in the opener. The Nationals have also won 19 of 25 after opening the season 11-16 and trail the Braves by one game in the National League East.
"I really just think we're trying to battle each and every game," said third baseman Anthony Rendon, who had a key three-run homer Sunday. "We didn't get off to the best start. We are just trying to buckle down and get into a rhythm."
The Orioles are moving in the opposite direction and are staring at the possibility of a complete rebuild. That could include trading pending free agent Manny Machado, who leads the team in almost every offensive category.
Baltimore lost five of seven games and have been shut out five times this season. When asked whether Memorial Day was a key benchmark for the direction of the season, manager Buck Showalter acknowledged the team needs a quick turnaround.
"I've never heard that, but I'm sure it's something," Showalter said. "I don't listen to a lot of that stuff that says, 'Hey, by this day it's 100 percent exactly what this is going to be.' There's too much of the human element here. We're probably getting close to a third of the way. Somewhere around here. Today? So that's probably what they base it on. It's probably around there.
"So, no, I'm always evaluating kind of where we are and where we have the potential to head. Just gotta get better. I think our guys know that. It's very frustrating for them right now and I'm sure for everybody, including the fans."
Washington will look to take the three-game series behind Jeremy Hellickson, a former member of the Orioles' staff. Hellickson is 1-0 with a 2.13 ERA in seven starts this season. He is 9-4 with a 3.38 ERA in 19 appearances (17 starts) against Baltimore.
In his last outing, Hellickson allowed one run and five hits with five strikeouts and one walk over 51/3 innings in a 2-1 win over the Padres on Tuesday. He had not pitched since May 13.
Hellickson said the time off -- he hadn't pitched since May 13 -- did not help his rhythm.
"I felt OK. I mean it's tough to take 10 days off," Hellickson said. "I think I threw five innings in 10 days. I was 1-0 more than I would like ... (but) 5 1/3 and one run, can't really complain about that. Made a lot of good plays. There was a lot of balls hit right at guys that made some good plays on, but it didn't take a while to find that command again."
Washington has also gotten some good news on the injury front. Second baseman Daniel Murphy (offseason knee surgery), first baseman Ryan Zimmerman (right oblique strain) and outfielder Brian Goodwin (left wrist) are on track to rejoin the roster over the next couple of weeks.
The Orioles will counter with Dylan Bundy (3-6, 4.45 ERA). He is coming off a 14-strikeout performance Thursday against the White Sox. He is looking to maintain that momentum against the Nationals tough lineup.
Bundy won his only career start against the Nationals, allowing just two runs and three hits over six innings.
"We're only going to go as far as our pitching can take us," Bundy said. "I feel like we've pitched well this year and on the other side not really done much. And also had the other side of it, too. It's frustrating."