It wasn't about rivalry or even revenge. For the home team, the first regular-season baseball game here between the Washington and Baltimore franchises since 1971 had nothing to do with the club in the visiting dugout.
It was all about the collective psyche of the Orioles, who were coming off a stunning loss on Thursday when the bullpen couldn't hold a four-run, ninth-inning lead and Todd Williams couldn't throw a pitch wide enough for an intentional walk.
Nobody felt any worse about the loss than Chris Ray, who symbolized the resilience of the Orioles on Friday night. A night after blowing his first save of the season, Ray closed out a great outing from Rodrigo Lopez in the Orioles' 2-1 victory over the Washington Nationals before 48,331 at Camden Yards, the Orioles' fifth sellout of the season.
"I wouldn't have wanted to blow this one, that's for sure," said Ray, who gave up two two-out, pinch-hit homers in the ninth inning of the Orioles' 8-5, 10-inning loss to Florida on Thursday. "I didn't want to sit around and wait two more days. I wanted to have my chance to do it tonight."
After his 19th save, in which he retired the Nationals in order in the ninth, Ray walked into the clubhouse hallway. Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo, cognizant that several of Ray's pitches were clocked at 98 mph, stopped him before he turned the corner into the main room, put his arm around him and said, "Did your arm feel that good tonight or were you just mad?"
Ray said he laughed and said, "I felt really good." So did the Orioles, who were satisfied to separate themselves from that crushing loss to the Marlins if only for one day.
The Orioles (34-41) evened the season series with the Nationals (32-43) at two each. They got a sacrifice fly from Melvin Mora in the third and an RBI single from Corey Patterson in the sixth after Mora had reached second on a delayed steal.
"I think the whole ballclub responded well," said Perlozzo, who also watched LaTroy Hawkins get out of a jam in the eighth with the Orioles leading 2-1.
"You get tired of hearing me saying it, but this team has bounced back after some tough losses. We've done it all year long and we still feel like we're on the verge of putting a good streak together ... and our starting pitching has been the key."
After eight-inning efforts from Erik Bedard and Kris Benson on Wednesday and Thursday, Lopez went seven strong innings, allowing his only run on a Daryle Ward sacrifice fly in the seventh inning. Paired again with his personal catcher Javy Lopez, Rodrigo Lopez allowed seven hits, while walking none and striking out seven.
In the past three games, Orioles starters have given up a total of two runs, 15 hits and two walks in 23 innings. It is the first time Orioles starters have thrown at least seven innings three straight games since April 13-15
"Not only was he hitting his spots, but he was moving the ball very well - cutters and sinkers pretty much the whole game," Javy Lopez said. "Once in a while, he'd throw a slider and his slider was pretty sharp also. It was one of his best starts that he's had so far."
Earlier Rodrigo Lopez left no secret that he was angered his scheduled start was pushed back three days to Friday night after Perlozzo set up the rotation. He threw a high fastball by Nationals slugger Alfonso Soriano with a man on for the last out of the seventh. He held Soriano to 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. If he was intent on proving the point, his message was understood.
"Since the last game I pitched, since they told me in New York, I wasn't happy," said Rodrigo Lopez. "When I walk into the bullpen to do my bullpen session I was trying to concentrate on the game. But I definitely wasn't happy.
"I think this game, the whole credit goes to Javy. There was men in scoring position and I just followed him and everything worked for us."
Despite little buildup before the game, there was a packed house at Camden Yards, but no signs in the stands of anything resembling a rivalry between two teams that entered the series a combined 18 games under .500. There was no palpable electricity, which was also absent when the teams played in mid-May.
The orange-and-black in the stands outnumbered the blue-and-red by a large margin, and the Orioles fans did take time to salute someone in a Nationals' jersey. That, of course, was Washington manager Frank Robinson, a Hall of Famer and all-time Orioles great. Robinson was given a standing ovation before the bottom of the third inning Friday night after a replay of his 500th home run was displayed on the stadium's video board.
The Nationals manager had to be pleased with the return of John Patterson, who, after being activated from the disabled list earlier in the day, pitched six strong innings. However, a Nationals lineup that was again without Nick Johnson and could be without him for the entire series, offered no support.
"Tonight had to be a big night for [Rodrigo Lopez], just because the game we had last night," said Javy Lopez. "It was hard for us. We wanted to make a quick comeback and Rodrigo pretty much did it." email@example.com