WASHINGTON -- The Nationals know what's at stake as they approach the final weeks of the season. They have to win almost every game if they want to catch the Mets in the National League East race. The Orioles, meanwhile, are hoping to leapfrog a handful of teams and make a run at an American League Wild Card spot. The O's struck first in the Battle of the Beltways on Tuesday, beating the Nats, 4-1, at Nationals Park to move within five games of the second AL Wild Card spot.
Washington remains 6 1/2 games behind the Mets, who lost to the Braves. With 12 games left in the season, the magic number for the Nationals to be eliminated is six.
It was a game that saw Orioles right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez have his way with the Nationals. He pitched six innings, allowed one unearned run on three hits and struck out five batters.
"He had good command of all of his pitches," Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper said. "He kept us off balance. His sinker was pretty good, his curveball was pretty good. He pitched well. He threw to his strengths."
Jimenez did the job with the bat as well, driving in the first run of the game with a single to center in the second inning off left-hander Gio Gonzalez.
"That was fun," Jimenez said. "You don't get to do that every day. Every time you have the chance to help the team out and get it going, it's really neat. It's really nice. You have to enjoy every hit you can."
Gonzalez didn't have his best stuff, lasting just 4 2/3 innings and allowing four runs on six hits while striking out six and walking two. He was taken out of the game in the fifth inning after he allowed RBI doubles to Chris Davis and Steve Pearce.
Gonzalez blamed himself for the loss. He didn't stick to the game plan set by catcher Jose Lobaton.
"Lobby had a great plan. I tried to reinvent the wheel. I tried to change it up on these guys," Gonzalez said. "Obviously, I was wrong. I should give Lobby more of the credit he deserves. He did a great job behind the dish. Again, my mistake making bad choices of pitches."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED One of many for Manny: With one out in the fifth, Manny Machado singled to right field. It was the 500th hit of his career and the first of the three consecutive knocks that extended Baltimore's lead to 4-1 and chased Gonzalez from the game.
"I mean, yeah, you look at [the records]," Machado said. "It's something that's always there, something that you hopefully want to be just close to it. It's something that, Cal [Ripken]'s record and Eddie Murray's, it goes on. I think you just want to have half the careers they've had, and kind of not really think about it. Just go out there and play and whatever comes your way is going to come."
Walk this way: Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper walked three times in the game. He now has 118 walks, which broke Adam Dunn's Nats record of 116 set in 2009.
"I'm trying to be the best, trying to get on base. I have faith in the guys behind me to get it done," Harper said. "If I can just get on base, if we score runs, we are winning ballgames." More >
Work with what you got: Jimenez walked five hitters and threw only 55 percent of his pitches for strikes, but he was able to work around the command troubles and limit the Nationals to the one unearned run. A host of misplays including two errors led to the run in the fourth, but he struck out five to earn the 100th win of his career.
"The thing about Ubaldo, he takes the ball every fifth day, he's been a healthy pitcher, he takes care of himself, you never have to worry about him being ready on the day he pitches. It's a big moment for him, especially for him," manager Buck Showalter said. "Sometimes we forget how long and good a career he's actually had." More >
Fister and company do the job: Manager Matt Williams went to the bullpen in the bottom of the fifth inning and the relievers pitched 4 1/3 innings without allowing a run. Doug Fister was the most impressive, pitching two shutout innings and striking out four batters.
"We just have to win. If we win ballgames, that's what we have to do. We have to come in here and win games. If we do that, I think we can be in contention. We have to keep winning, keep going, keep battling the best that we can." -- Harper
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Ken Singleton holds the Montreal/Washington franchise record for most walks in a season with 123 free passes in 1973. Singleton played all 162 games in that season.
After two Baltimore errors led to Washington's first run, Gonzalez tried to move Ian Desmond to third base with a sacrifice bunt. Caleb Joseph got the forceout at third, but Machado's relay to first for the double-play attempt was ruled not in time, which manager Buck Showalter challenged. The call was overturned, and the 2-5-4 double play ended the fourth inning.
WHAT'S NEXT Orioles: Baltimore will pitch Chris Tillman (9-11, 5.19 ERA) in Wednesday's second game of the Beltways Series, with first pitch set for 7:05 p.m. ET. He hasn't pitched through the sixth inning in any of his four September starts, and in four career starts against the Nationals, he is 0-0 with a 4.37 ERA.
Nationals: Right-hander Max Scherzer will take the mound vs. the O's. In his last start on Friday, Scherzer ended up with a no-decision, allowing two runs -- on Christian Yelich's home run in the first inning -- and five hits, while striking out six over seven innings.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All theTime. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. Jacob Emert is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.