O's can continue mastery of Nationals

O's strive for Interleague improvement

O's can continue mastery of Nationals
BALTIMORE -- It's time for the Orioles to go National: League, that is.

Baltimore will christen this year's installment of Interleague Play by welcoming the Washington Nationals for a three-game "Battle of the Beltways" series that starts on Friday night.

In the past, the Orioles have fared well against their regional rival from the NL East, going 3-0 at home last season and finishing 4-2 to win the season series against the Nats. However, it was the only Interleague series won last season by the Orioles, who lost series to the Mets (0-3), San Diego Padres (1-2), San Francisco Giants (1-2) and Florida Marlins (1-2), posting a combined 7-11 record.

Baltimore had three hitters in the top 20 average against the NL last season in Nick Markakis (14th), Adam Jones (18th) and Miguel Tejada (19th).
Baltimore is 108-138 all time in Interleague Play, with a 60-64 record against NL opponents at home.
vs. WAS, May 20-22: The O's will first host the Nationals in a battle for Mid-Atlantic supremacy. Baltimore is 15-9 against the Nationals overall and won the series, 4-2, in 2010, thanks to a three-game series sweep in June.
@ PIT, June 20-22: The O's will face the Pirates for the first time since 2008 and will play in Pittsburgh for the first time in six years. Baltimore has won three series against the Pirates and lost three.
vs. CIN, June 24-26: The O's only series against the Reds was in Cincinnati in 2005. Baltimore lost that set, 2-1, giving up 10 runs in the final two games and losing by a combined score of 20-7.
vs. STL, June 28-30: The Orioles' lone trip to St. Louis was not a winning one; they dropped two of three. Now, the O's look for revenge in Baltimore, hosting the Cardinals for another three-game set.
@ ATL, July 1-3: After not facing the Braves in 2010, the Orioles look to close in on Atlanta's 17-13 all-time series lead. In '09, when the two teams last met, Brian Roberts helped the O's take two of three by going 6-for-10 with two doubles.
Nick Markakis, OF (.328, five HR, 38 RBI): Markakis has the highest batting average of any O's batter against the NL, outside of Felix Pie, who has only nine at-bats against Interleague opponents.
Vladimir Guerrero, DH (.287, 19 HR, 75 RBI): The seasoned veteran has the most home runs against Interleague opponents.
Jake Arrieta, RHP (1-1, 6.91 ERA): Arrieta did not fare well in his rookie season against the NL, struggling against San Francisco, Washington and San Diego.

Orioles right-hander Jake Arrieta is scheduled to take the mound for Friday's opener against the Nats, and the weekend set is also expected to include the return of right-hander Alfredo Simon, who is slated to be activated and added to the bullpen for Sunday's game.

The O's will get their first taste of NL rules when they make the short trip to Nationals Park on June 17 for a three-game set as part of a three-city road trip. Following that series, the Orioles will go to Pittsburgh to take on the Pirates at PNC Park. Baltimore is 3-3 all time against Pittsburgh -- the team formerly managed by O's third-base coach John Russell -- and lost its only series (1-2) on the Pirates' home turf.

The Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals will come to town in the final week in June, with both organizations making their first trip to Baltimore's Camden Yards. The Orioles are 1-2 against the Reds and also dropped two of three to the Cardinals in their first meeting, at Busch Stadium in 2003.

A series at the Braves' Turner Field from July 1-3 will cap the O's Interleague schedule. Baltimore is 13-17 against Atlanta, lefty reliever Michael Gonzalez's former team, and took two of three games in the clubs' last meeting, in 2009 at Camden Yards. The three-game set this season will be the O's seventh visit to Turner Field and their first since '03. Baltimore swept the Braves at Atlanta in their first Interleague set, June 13-15, 1997.

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.