On the field at least, the Nationals and Orioles have had a pretty friendly rivalry

Washington Nationals manager Dave Martinez stands in the dugout during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Nationals Park, Friday, May 3, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/John McDonnell)(AP/John McDonnell)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Dave Martinez was asked about the rivalry between the Nationals and Orioles — specifically, whether it’s actually become much of one — and his answer was blunt.

“Honestly, no,” Washington’s manager said. “It really hasn’t.”

That might come as news to quite a few fans in the area — and a handful of lawyers — but what Martinez seemingly meant was despite the proximity of the franchises, there isn’t a great deal of animosity when they play. As rivalries go, this one’s been pretty friendly on the field.

“I got a lot of respect for what they do, and I know that they feel the same way about what we do here,” Martinez said. “We know they’ve got a very good young team. We’ve got a very good young team, playing pretty good right now. So should be fun. Fans should be excited. Two teams that are very close.”

Washington’s 3-0 victory over Baltimore on Tuesday night was the first of four scheduled meetings this season between the teams, separated by about 40 traffic-heavy miles. The Nationals are in their 20th season in D.C. since arriving from Montreal. That move was fought by Orioles ownership, and an agreement was reached that put both teams on the same TV station, with the Orioles having a significantly larger ownership stake in the regional sports network.

It’s taken quite a bit of arbitration and litigation to determine the Nationals’ telecast rights fees, but that legal wrangling through the years hasn’t necessarily filtered down to the players or even the fans.

“It’s kind of another game, another series that we need to go out there and win. They just happen to be next door,” Orioles left-hander John Means said. “The fact that we’re not in the same division and different league in general, just makes it a little tougher to have that kind of rivalry.”

And lately, Baltimore has been managed by Brandon Hyde and Washington by Martinez. The two won a World Series together as coaches with the Chicago Cubs in 2016.

“I don’t have any animosity toward Davey. I love Davey. Maybe I’ll start a little bit this series,” Hyde joked. “There’s a lot of respect.”

There were actually a couple ejections in Tuesday’s game, but that was because Hyde and Orioles designated hitter Ryan O’Hearn got into it with the plate umpire — not any of their opponents.

There was one indication that this was not a run-of-the-mill game: Both teams wore their special City Connect uniforms — the first time two major league teams wore them in the same game. There were plenty of fans of both teams on hand to enjoy them.

But it’s been hard for the Nationals and Orioles to establish a major rivalry, what with the teams in different leagues. Mets-Yankees in New York and Cubs-White Sox in Chicago are two examples of emotionally charged interleague battles, but the proximity between Washington and Baltimore isn’t quite the same. Fans in this area can be territorial toward each other, but only sometimes.

The NHL’s Washington Capitals, for example, have plenty of support in the Baltimore area — and a lot of D.C.-area baseball fans supported the Orioles before the Nationals arrived.

It might help if the Nationals and Orioles were good at the same time, but that’s been rare. Both teams made the postseason in 2012, 2014 and 2016, but those are the only times it’s happened, and they’ve never made it past the Division Series in the same year.

Perhaps that will change soon. The Orioles had the best record in the American League last year, and the same is true so far in 2024. It was no surprise that plenty of their orange-clad fans were among the announced crowd of 29,542 on Tuesday at Nationals Park for the season’s first Beltway Series.

Washington lost 91 games last year, but the win Tuesday put the Nationals above .500 for the first time since July 2021.

“My first year here they were really good, and then we’ve both kind of gone in weird kind of directions,” Hyde said. “We’re still super close. I have a lot of respect — (ex-Orioles reliever) Hunter Harvey’s over there too. He’s a fan of a lot of people in our clubhouse. It’s a friendly rivalry.”


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