It might be the biggest day of baseball this region has seen in decades.
On Friday evening, both the Washington Nationals and the Baltimore Orioles will play the final—and decisive—games of their respective divisional series.
Just 24 hours ago, it wasn't clear that either team would live to see action beyond Thursday, with the Nats trailing the St. Louis Cardinals and the O's trailing the New York Yankees by two games to one.
But in thrilling, late-inning play, both teams slipped ahead yesterday to seize 2-1 wins and even up each best-of-five series at two games apiece.
Washington's saving grace came in the form of a walk-off solo home run by right fielder Jayson Werth in the bottom of the ninth, which snapped a 1-1 tie that had held since the third inning. Werth got the better of Cardinals reliever Lance Lynn in a 13-pitch at bat, knocking one deep to left field and sending the crowd at Nationals Park into an absolute frenzy.
Baltimore—not to be outdone in the white-knuckle department—took 13 innings to finish off the Yankees in the Bronx, scoring the decisive run when a double by shortstop J.J. Hardy drove home 20-year-old third baseman Manny Machado. The 2-1 win marked the third straight game in the series to be decided by one run.
And so for both teams, it all comes down to Friday.
The Orioles face off against the Yankees in New York tonight at 5:07 p.m., with the winner advancing to face the Detroit Tigers in the American League Championship Series. The Nationals have the nightcap, squaring off against the Cardinals at 8:37 p.m. for a chance to face the resurgent San Francisco Giants in the National League Championship Series.
Wins by both would keep the dream of a beltway World Series alive; a loss by either would mean the end of the season. So stay tuned.
Baseball fans: how are you planning to take in today's game(s)? Do you think a Nats-O's World Series is in the cards? Let us know in the comments.