Put your hand down - you're lying and nobody can see you anyway.
What makes the Nationals' early season success so interesting is that they've seemingly switched places with the Orioles, known for their early season hot starts and infamous for their late season collapses. The Orioles sit 30th among 30 MLB teams at the moment and the season's only relative bright spot, Brian Matusz, got lit up yesterday.
How do the Nats keep winning ball games? I'm gonna unscientifically say timely hitting interspersed with the occasional quality start and an absolutely LETHAL late inning pitching combination, courtesy of Tyler Clippard and Matt Capps.
For fun, I decided to compare the Nationals and Orioles in terms of their places in the standings and their offensive and pitching statistics. MLB rankings are applied in parentheses where appropriate (click tables to enlarge).
The Nats are 2 games behind the Phillies in the NL East and 1.5 games behind the Giants for the NL Wild Card; the Orioles are 13.5 games behind the Rays in the AL East and 13 games behind the Yankees for the AL Wild Card.
**BONUS Fun Fact: The Orioles have the 2nd worst home record and the worst road record in the MLB!
Now a look at the teams' offensive outputs (ed. note: the O's actually have 107 runs but I'm too lazy to go back and fix the tables):
Both teams are far from elite offensively, but the Nats are getting on base at a much higher rate and manufacturing a lot of runs because of that. Ten of the Orioles' 30 HR have come off the bat of journeyman Ty Wigginton. Expect a regression to the mean from that guy fairly soon.
**BONUS Fun Fact: The Orioles are hitting .220 with runners in scoring position (29th in MLB) and the Nats are hitting .264 (12th in MLB)!
Finally, some pitching statistics:
Only one thing stands out here, and you can't underestimate its importance: the Nats are 13/17 in save opportunities compared to the Orioles' 6/12 mark. How many consecutive years have the bullpens of these clubs been their Achilles heels? Too many for me to even try to count. Tyler Clippard and Matt Capps have solidified the back end for the Nationals. Mike Gonzalez has solidified his position as Dany Baez 2.0 for the Orioles, a solid relief pitcher who cashed in on a good contract year and couldn't handle 9th inning pressure.
**BONUS Fun Fact: Mike Gonzalez is worthless!
Can the Nats keep this up? Let's hope so. Can the O's turn things around? Probably not.
But we have all summer to do nothing but find out.