If you're taking a trip down I-495, informally known as the beltway, you can find the homes of both the Washington Nationals and the Baltimore Orioles.
The teams play about 38 miles from one another and only have appeared in one postseason together (2012). Sure, the Nationals have only been a team since 2005, but neither team has been good at the same dime. Now, the brains in their front offices' have taken them both to the division crown.
The Washington Nationals became the first team in the major leagues to clinch their respective division on Tuesday night with a 3-0 defeat of the Atlanta Braves on the road. Practically 20 minutes later, their counterpart Orioles clinched the American League East. They defeated the Toronto Blue Jays 8-2 to punch their ticket to October baseball.
The Washington Nationals had a really disappointing season in 2013 after winning their division in 2012. This season, however, they ran away with the NL East. Second-year veteran Tanner Roark tossed a beautiful seven innings to seal the deal for Washington, allowing five hits, no runs, striking out four and walking none. Ian Desmond, the team's star shortstop, drove in two runs and recorded two hits to help out the offensive cause. I predicted the Nationals would in the World Series prior to the season and it still looks like it is a pretty nice selection.
The Baltimore Orioles came into 2014 with people wondering how their pitching will hold up behind their offense. Their starting rotation has had some unsung heroes, including 23-year-old Kevin Gausman, who is 7-7 with a 3.57 ERA in 18 starts since being called up to the big league club. But it was free agent acquisition Ubaldo Jimenez who came up big in the clincher, pitching five strong, allowing just two earned. Steve Pearce (who is a completely different story himself) hit a three-run home run in the first inning and the Orioles never looked back.
Both teams could be very scary in the postseason. We could possibly see a "battle of the beltway" World Series, with the Nationals and Orioles squaring off on baseball's biggest stage. But last night, they took the first step toward the World Series by punching their tickets to the playoffs.
Congratulations to the Baltimore Orioles and the Washington Nationals on their division crowns.