Orioles Vs. Braves Series Preview: Interleague Play Concludes With Baltimore In Town

The Baltimore Orioles are a young team headed in the right path, but they're simply just in the wrong division to make much noise this year. They were just swept by the Cardinals at home and now sit at 35-43. Let's take a closer look at Buck Showalter's club...

Offense:

The Orioles are an average club offensively, but they've been hitting well in recent weeks and are capable of putting a few crooked numbers on the scoreboard in a hurry. With the majority of their club being under the age of 30, Baltimore has a lot to look forward to in the coming years.

Former top-prospect Matt Wieters (.262/.317/.402, 97 wRC+) hasn't quite lived up to the billing offensively (yet), but he's one of the better catchers in the AL. Baltimore is lead by shortstop J.J. Hardy (.305/.365/.538, 146 wRC+) who is having a big year before hitting free agency, the free-swinging Adam Jones (.285/.329/.473, 120 wRC+) and slugging third baseman Mark Reynolds (.225/.352/.462, 127 wRC+) and his big strikeout numbers. Nolan Reimold (.280/.383/.540, 145 wRC+) has also hit well since missing time earlier in the season with injuries.

Those five will be the main cogs in the Baltimore lineup, though they do have some other talented hitters that aren't as well known. Luke Scott (.234/.314/.426, 102 wRC+) is a very consistent hitter and despite never living up to expectations, Nick Markakis (.284/.334/.370, 96 wRC+) is a decent outfielder. Second baseman Robert Andino (.258/.332/.312, 81 wRC+) isn't much of a hitter.

One thing the Orioles don't do is steal bases. They have just 31 this year, which is six more than the Braves' current number. Don't expect a lot of activity on the base paths this series.

Pitching Matchups:

Friday, 6/1 - Jair Jurrjens Vs. Jeremy Guthrie - 7:35 EDT (SportSouth)

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2011 - Jair Jurrjens 10-3 14 14 1 0 0 0 95.2 87 24 22 5 22 55 2.07 1.14
W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2011 - Jeremy Guthrie 3-9 17 16 2 0 0 0 103.0 107 52 45 13 24 66 3.93 1.27


Jeremy Guthrie, a righty, is a solid pitcher who doesn't deserve the win-loss record he has this season. He doesn't overpower you (5.77 K/9), but he won't walk many either (2.10 BB/9). He's a fly ball pitcher which doesn't work well for him in Camden Yards, but it could play to his benefit tonight at the spacious Turner Field.

Guthrie throws harder than expected and brings a fastball to the plate around 93mph. His slider is arguably his best pitch and it breaks quite a bit. He also works in an occasional curveball and changeup while on the mound.

Saturday, 6/2 - Tim Hudson Vs. Jake Arrieta - 7:05 EDT (SportSouth)

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2011 - Tim Hudson 6-6 16 16 1 1 0 0 100.0 87 46 39 6 24 70 3.51 1.11
W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2011 - Jake Arrieta 9-4 16 16 0 0 0 0 88.0 76 44 44 12 42 71 4.50 1.34


Jake Arrieta is having somewhat of a breakout season despite struggling with control more times than not. A righty, Arrieta strikes a few guys out (7.26 K/9), but also walks too many (4.50 BB/9) to keep him from dominating and staying deep into the game. His BABIP against him of .259 means he's bound to regress quite a bit.

He basically throws the same pitches Jeremy Guthrie does. He works off his fastball that sits in the low-90's, uses his hard slider to record his strikeouts, a changeup to keep left-handed batters off balance and an occasional curveball. 

Sunday, 7/3 - Brandon Beachy Vs. Zach Britton - 1:35 EDT (FOX Sports South)

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2011 - Brandon Beachy 3-1 10 10 0 0 0 0 56.1 43 20 19 7 15 66 3.04 1.03
W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2011 - Zach Britton 6-6 17 16 0 0 0 0 98.2 91 45 37 8 34 59 3.38 1.27


Zach Britton, who is the only left-handed starter the Braves will face in this series, is having a solid rookie campaign in Baltimore. He relies heavily on his sinker and that pitch plays a huge role in his impressive 54.6 GB%. His sinker sits in the low-90's and he throws it more than seventy percent of the time. He also throws a changeup and a slider to keep hitters honest. He's basically a poor man's Jonny Venters. That should be fun for the Braves.

Bullpen:

The Orioles bullpen is pretty average. Veteran closer Kevin Gregg and his 4.80 xFIP have been pretty mediocre this season, though set-up man Koji Uehara has been very tough this season. Right-handed reliever Jim Johnson (xFIP of 2.88) has been their best reliever and he pitches often. Former-Brave Mike Gonzalez continues to struggle since moving to Baltimore (5.40 ERA, 4.18 xFIP) and guys like Jeremy Accardo (5.29 ERA, 4.83 xFIP) and Jason Berken (6.04 ERA, 4.19 xFIP) haven't worked out quite as well as the club hoped for.

If the Orioles starter goes deep into the game, Baltimore can throw a few decent relievers to the mound to close out the game. The key (as it is with most teams) is to get into the bullpen as early as possible.

In conclusion...

The Braves should win this series, if not sweep it. They've been playing well and the Orioles have not. The pitching matchups are in their favor each game and the lineup has been hitting better recently. That being said, you just never know which Braves team is going to show up. Expect a good, high scoring series this weekend.

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