Then again, the Washington Nationals haven't been giving their
supporters a lot to get excited about all season.
Benson allowed only one run in his sixth career complete game,
and Baltimore beat Washington 5-1 Friday night in the first
regular-season major league meeting between the cities since 1971.
"Nowadays, you see pitchers go four and five innings, and they
consider that a good start," said Baltimore's Corey Patterson,
whose two hits included an RBI triple. "For him to do that, I
think is tremendous. It's a rarity."
Benson hadn't gone the distance since Sept. 14, 2004, for the
Mets against the Braves. The last Orioles complete game came from
Sidney Ponson on April 24, 2005.
And Benson (6-3) might not have been all that optimistic heading
into Friday: He was 0-2 with an 8.53 earned-run average in four starts against
Washington in 2005.
"They had my number last year," he said. "It definitely
doesn't hurt when you know these guys pretty well, but they know me
Nothing of that sort seems to matter against the Nationals these
days. They appeared headed for their third shutout in four games
until Alfonso Soriano's solo shot off Benson in the eighth, his
"The entire lineup is not doing the job right now offensively.
It hasn't for some time," Nationals manager Frank Robinson said.
"It's not what the pitcher's doing. It's what we're not doing."
Benson gave up five hits, with two walks and three strikeouts,
improving to 5-1 in his last six starts.
"He threw strikes and hit his spots," Washington's Marlon Byrd
said. "He did it all night."
Five Orioles each drove in one run, and third baseman Melvin
Mora delivered three singles, hours after a news conference in
Baltimore to announce his $25 million, three-year contract
Washington's RFK Stadium is about 35 miles from Oriole Park at
Camden Yards, making Baltimore's players pleased to be able to head
to their homes during the three-game "road" series. But there
wasn't all that much buzz among the crowd of 30,320, more than
16,000 shy of capacity -- even if shortly before the first pitch,
the PA announcer intoned: "Let the 'Battle of the Beltway'
As Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo put it: "Well, I didn't think
it was electric. It was OK."
The locals had plenty of opportunities to jeer as the Nationals
dropped to 3-11 at home, including two errors and reliever Felix
Rodriguez's three runs allowed in 1 1/3 innings.
Until Rodriguez entered, Washington kept it close thanks to
starter Mike O'Connor (2-2). He was hit by a line drive on his
pitching shoulder in the fourth inning but stayed in, allowing two
runs and six hits over six innings
"I thought there was no way he could continue," Robinson said.
"He's a real gutty kid."
Rodriguez gave up RBI hits by Jeff Conine and Ramon Hernandez in
the seventh, making it 4-0. An inning later, Patterson singled,
stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error by catcher
Wiki Gonzalez, then scored on Ed Rogers' RBI single.
"That was almost like lights out," Robinson said. "You don't
give up, but you've got a tremendous hill to climb."
Robinson played for the Orioles when they used to face the
Washington Senators; the clubs met 350 times from 1954-71. He said
Orioles-Senators never really felt like a rivalry -- and this new
edition might not, either, for some time.
"It's something that has to be built up over the years, and
both these clubs have to be competitive and there has to be some
interest, there has to be some nastiness between the two teams, a
couple knockdown brawls, whatever," Robinson said.
"There has to be some ingredients put into the pot and stir it
up to make it a rivalry."
The closest to that sort of thing came in the eighth, when
Rodriguez hit Miguel Tejada in the hip, loading the bases. Two
innings earlier, Benson had thrown Ryan Zimmerman an 0-2 pitch
up and in, forcing the Nationals' rookie to spin out of the way --
and drawing loud grumbling from some home fans.
Every Orioles starter had at least one hit or RBI except Kevin
Millar, who knows a thing or two about a big baseball rivalry from
his days in the Red Sox-Yankees fray.
Asked what would turn Baltimore-Washington into something
significant, Miller offered a simple answer.
"Winning. You've got to win. Nobody's interested in two teams
that aren't winning," Millar said. "Once you throw winning into
the equation, it becomes a rivalry."
Guillen (right hamstring) sat out a second consecutive game. ... Nationals right-hander John Patterson, on the DL with a right forearm injury, threw 45 pitches in his first bullpen session since getting an injection 10 days ago.