In the three years that Buck Showalter served as Matt Williams' manager with the D-backs from 1998-2000, he saw the player's understanding of the game. It's no surprise for Showalter that Williams is in his first season as manager of the Nationals.
"He was a student," said Showalter, now the Orioles' manager. "The way he played the game, he was a good teammate. It doesn't surprise me at all."
Mentor and student will face off for the first time as managers in opposite dugouts on Monday when Baltimore opens a four-game, home-and-home series at Nationals Park in Washington.
In the opener, Williams will send his team to the diamond with Stephen Strasburg on the mound. Despite some inconsistency, Strasburg has still been one of the best starting pitchers in baseball. In his last start, the right-hander allowed just one run on five hits with eight strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings.
"I was able to command the fastball a little bit better," said Strasburg, who is 7-6 with a 3.53 ERA this season. "They were fouling them off. I wouldn't say they were great pitches. I was able to execute the pitch a little bit better. I had them put it in play and make weak contact."
The O's will counter with Chris Tillman, who was their Opening Day starter. Tillman (7-4) has posted a 4.21 ERA this season, but the Nats will provide a challenge. Washington has scored four or more runs in four of its six games since Bryce Harper returned and brought the Nats back to full strength.
It will be exciting for Showalter to go against his former player -- especially since it's just for one series.
"Be happy for him after we get done," Showalter said. "I'd hate to have to play them much more than the four games we have it."
Nationals: Harper still searching for his groove
For the second straight day on Sunday, Harper found himself battings sixth in the order. The outfielder has yet to find a rhythm since returning from the disabled list, and his struggles continued on Sunday.
Harper went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts to drop his average to .190 since being activated on Monday. He has collected just four hits during that time and only one has gone for extra bases.
"I think it's going to take a little time to get back into it," Harper said. "I'm trying to have good at-bats and not chase bad pitches. I'm trying to get in a groove again and trying to get going. With two months off, it's kind of tough trying to get back and do things."
Orioles: Despite strong start, Gausman's future up in air again
Kevin Gausman gave Baltimore 5 1/3 strong innings again on Sunday, but with Bud Norris scheduled to return from the DL on Tuesday to start against Washington, the rookie could head back to the Minors.
Norris' return will give the O's a six-man rotation, so the club could opt to send Gausman down to add some bullpen depth and recall Gausman after the All-Star break.
"We could send somebody out, like we did just about every other year to make sure we've got some depth in our bullpen and really not lose anything and still be able to get back before the 10 days are up post All-Star break," Showalter said. "We could, not saying we're going to. We'll see how the next few days go."
• Baltimore has only faced Strasburg once. The righty allowed three runs (one earned) in five innings of a win on May 20, 2012, and hit a home run.
• The O's lead the Nats, 26-20, in the eight-year history of the Beltway Series.
David Wilson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.