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The Atlanta Braves couldn't complete a three game sweep falling 5-4 in the series finale to the Baltimore Orioles. After trailing throughout the first five innings, the Braves rallied to take the lead with a four run sixth. The lead was short lived as the Orioles grabbed the lead right back with a Mark Reynolds home run off of Atlanta reliever Scott Proctor.
Baltimore grabbed an early lead in the third inning when pitcher Zach Britton homered off of Brandon Beachy giving the Orioles a 1-0 lead. After a couple of singles by J.J. Hardy and Nick Markakis, Mark Reynolds hit a sacrifice fly extending the lead to 2-0 for the Orioles.
The Orioles tacked on another lone run in the fifth inning but it could have been much worse for the Braves. Pitcher Britton led off the inning with an infield single. J.J. Hardy was then hit by a Beachy pitch setting the table for Nick Markakis who doubled to deep right scoring Britton. With runners at second and third with no one out, Beachy rallied to retire the next three batters without allowing anymore damage. Freddie Freeman made a nice play reaching into the camera well in foul territory on the first base side to retire Adam Jones. Beachy then struck out Mark Reynolds and got Derek Lee to pop out to shortstop to end the inning.
Atlanta finally broke through in the sixth inning. Britton walked Chipper Jones to lead off the inning and Brian McCann followed with a single. Freddie Freeman then brought home Atlanta's first run with a solid single to center that chased Britton from the game. New pitcher Jim Johnson got Dan Uggla to fly out to left for the first out of the inning but Nate McLouth followed with a single to right that loaded the bases. Atlanta scored its second run on a Julio Lugo ground out to short before Eric Hinske slugged a pinch hit two run single to center that gave Atlanta its only lead of the game 4-3.
Scott Proctor came on to pitch for Atlanta and sandwiched strikeouts to both Hardy and Adam Jones around a Markakis single. Proctor then made a mistake to Mark Reynolds who hit a long home run to left scoring Markakis and putting the Orioles back in front for good 5-4.
Nick Markakis tied a career high with five hits in the game. Reynolds hit his 18th home run of the season and added three RBI's. For Atlanta, Jordan Schafer and Brian McCann each recorded two hits in the game.
Jim Johnson gets his fifth win of the season while Scott Proctor suffers his second loss of the season. Baltimore's Kevin Gregg worked a perfect ninth to earn his 15 save of the season.
For the first time since coming off the disabled list, Atlanta starter Brandon Beachy is pitching from behind. Beachy has allowed three runs over the first five innings and the Atlanta offense has been unable to get on track against Orioles starter Zach Britton.
Atlanta is probably lucky to only be trailing by three runs as Beachy has pitched out of trouble on two different occasions. He surrendered back to back singles to start the game to Baltimore's J.J. Hardy and Nick Markakis before coming back to strike out the next three batters.
Beachy surrendered the first run of the game in the third on a solo home run by the opposing pitcher Britton. Mark Reynolds also added a sacrifice fly in the inning to stake the Orioles to a 2-0 lead. He ran into trouble yet again in the fifth but rallied to get out of the inning with just one run scoring. Britton and Hardy led off the inning with singles and Nick Markakis followed with a run scoring double to right. Beachy then rallied to retire to retire Adam Jones on a foul out, Mark Reynolds on a strikeout, and got Derek Lee to pop out to short to end the inning.
Atlanta missed out on an excellent opportunity to score in the fifth. After a Nate McLouth ground out, Julio Lugo walked and advanced to second on a pinch hit single by Wilkin Ramirez. Jordan Schafer then loaded the bases with a bunt single bringing up Jason Heyward with the bases loaded and one out. After a long battle with Britton, Heyward tapped back to Britton at the mound who started a 1-2-3 double play ending the threat.
The Braves could have very easily lost Saturday night's game. Tim Hudson wasn't quite a sharp as he can be, the club only recorded seven hits and some questionable defensive plays were made in the early-going. The Orioles hit the ball well all night, including three home runs, and their bullpen allowed just one base runners in three innings to end the game.
Thank goodness for David Ross, the best backup catcher in Major League Baseball. With his help and another good-enough pitching performance from the staff, Atlanta won their fifth straight game and will go for their second consecutive sweep on Sunday afternoon.
As afore mentioned, Tim Hudson wasn't as sharp as he has been in previous starts, but then again, he doesn't give up a run if he doesn't make two mistakes to Mark Reynolds. Hudson worked six innings and gave up eight hits and walked three, though he did give up two homers to Reynolds. He struck out six Orioles on the night.
Jake Arrieta, who came into the game with nine victories despite an ERA in the mid-4's, pitched well and didn't deserve the loss. He allowed six hits and two walks, though two of those hits and a walk should never have happened. He struck out five and was able to consistently throw strikes with an inconsistent strike zone. It was strong effort for Arrieta, but he just couldn't overcome a few mistakes both he and the defense behind him made.
The Orioles took the lead for the first time in 40 innings with a 2-run homer to dead-center field from Mark Reynolds in the fourth inning. It was a no-doubt shot and the ball traveled at least 415 feet.
The Braves countered in the bottom half of the fourth with a little bit of luck and a little bit of blast. With two quick outs already in the book, Chipper Jones doubled and Freddie Freeman advanced to first after being hit in the foot with a pitch. Dan Uggla rocketed a fastball into left field that should have been caught by Luke Scott, but the outfielder got a late jump on the ball and had it pop out of his glove as he went to his knees to catch it. Chipper came around from second to score and the Braves still had life in the inning.
Nate McLouth had a phenomenal at-bat to draw a 9-pitch walk to load the bases. David Ross, who was filling in as Brian McCann had the night off, destroyed a belt-high fastball and sent it fifteen rows deep into the Turner Field seats in left. The crowd of 37, 259 erupted and Ross' blast gave Atlanta a 5-2 lead.
Baltimore battled back in the following innings. Mark Reynolds hit a solo-home run to left field to cut the score to 5-3 and Nick Markakis sent a Scott Linebrink fastball over the center field wall in the seventh inning. With Eric O'Flaherty on the mound, Baltimore had runners on second and third with two outs. After just missing a hanging slider on the previous pitch, Markakis popped a ball up to Nate McLouth in left field to end the threat.
Craig Kimbrel came in to protect the one run lead in the ninth and did so in typical Craig Kimbrel fashion: two strikeouts and a popup. The save was Kimbrel's 24th of the season, just two back of Jonathan Papelbon's All-Star Break record of 26 saves.
Tim Hudson improved to 7-6 this season and his ERA now sits at 3.57.
The Braves will go for the sweep Sunday afternoon as the club honors our nation's military. It'll be Brandon Beachy against lefty Zach Britton. Weather permitting, first pitch will be at 1:35 EDT.
These are the nights a fan lives for. The team is playing well, the stadium is full and you have a talented pitcher on the mound. Jair Jurrjens flat-out dominated on Friday night and it was something to behold.
Jurrjens threw all nine innings and gave up just one hit, a weak seeing-eye single up the middle from Adam Jones in the seventh. He only walked one batter and struck out eight, and he did it all on just 112 pitches. The Orioles have a good lineup, folks. This wasn't easy to do. With the win, Jurrjens is now 11-3 with a remarkable 1.89 ERA.
Jair pounded the outside corner all night long and kept the Baltimore lineup off balance with a brilliant mix of his fastball, changeup and slider. Just about every pitch was below the belt and the Orioles made solid contact with a ball two or three times all evening. It was his best start of the season and easily one of the best of his career.
Jeremy Guthrie started for Baltimore and he was plenty good in his own right. He went seven innings and allowed four runs (three earned) on six hits and three walks. He deserved a better outcome, but a throwing error from Derrek Lee in the eighth and no run support did him in. He falls to 3-10 this season despite a 3.93 ERA.
There wasn't too much offense on Friday night, but the Braves got a big boost from a Jason Heyward blast in the sixth inning. Jordan Schafer singled to get a runner on and Heyward jacked a high fastball over the center field wall to give Atlanta a 2-0 lead.
The club scored once again in the eighth. With runners on the corners and one out, Chipper Jones singled -- his first hit in fifteen at-bats -- through the left side to bring Schafer in to make the score 3-0. Freddie Freeman chopped one to former-Brave Derrek Lee at first base, but he threw the ball wildly, which then ricocheted off the back of Chipper's helmet and rolled into center field. Heyward scored easily from second to give the Braves a 4-0 lead heading into the ninth.
Jurrjens trotted back to the mound in the ninth and made quick work of Vladimir Guerrero, J.J. Hardy and Nick Markakis to close out the game. It's the second complete game of the season for Jair and his first career shutout.
It was a fun night in Atlanta.
Jair Jurrjens made it into the seventh inning before finally allowing his first hit of the game, which came courtesy of an Adam Jones weak ground ball that made it through Alex Gonzalez and Dan Uggla. He has issued just one walk as well and is currently pitching in the seventh. He's thrown just 79 pitches against a tough Orioles lineup.
Jeremy Guthrie started for Baltimore and has been nearly as good as his counterpart. His lone mistake was a high fastball to Jason Heyward, which J-Hey belted 400 feet for a 2-run homer. The home run was Heyward's first since May 29.
Jurrjens just struck out Derrek Lee for the final out of the seventh inning, his seventh strikeout of the evening. Freddie Freeman, Dan Uggla and Alex Gonzalez are due up for Atlanta in the bottom half of the inning. Jonny Venters is getting another night off, so we could use an insurance run (or six).
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...
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.
Friday, 6/1 - Jair Jurrjens Vs. Jeremy Guthrie - 7:35 EDT (SportSouth)
|2011 - Jair Jurrjens||10-3||14||14||1||0||0||0||95.2||87||24||22||5||22||55||2.07||1.14|
|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)
|2011 - Tim Hudson||6-6||16||16||1||1||0||0||100.0||87||46||39||6||24||70||3.51||1.11|
|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)
|2011 - Brandon Beachy||3-1||10||10||0||0||0||0||56.1||43||20||19||7||15||66||3.04||1.03|
|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.
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.
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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