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Orioles vs. Braves: Series Preview

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The Orioles return home to welcome back a familiar face...can they keep up the momentum they found in Tampa Bay?

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Story So Far:

On Sunday, this team showed they still have some life left in them by winning game three against the Rays to take the series. This may not be as impressive as it seems...the Rays are not a good team. Still, the O's deserve some credit for not entirely packing it in after getting swept out of New York. This time last week, this team was reported to be trade deadline "buyers"...after New York, that quickly switched to them being "buyers". Not sure that Rays series should have changed anything much...maybe the front office sees this team as having at least a chance at the Wild Card, but hopefully that won't lead them to selling the farm to acquire marginal pieces in a sellers' market. At the same time, is selling a good idea? Is holding steady? Unfortunately for Dan Duquette, whatever he decides to do will likely be judged by the result. Sell and the team loses? Good move. Buy and the team loses? Terrible move. Buy and the team wins? Great move. Do nothing and the team loses? You blew it. As fans, maybe we can at least help him out and remember that it would be almost impossible to make a move that truly moves the needle one way or another this season.

As for the Braves, they're likely looking to be sellers, but what do they have left to sell? This is a team that already moved a lot of their pieces at last year's deadline and over the offseason. A lot of their guys are young and under team control for a while. Then of course, there's Nick Markakis. I can't imagine how much you're going to hear about him this week. Remember when Nelson Cruz came to town earlier this season? Triple it. So OK, let's get this out of the way: the Braves overpaid for Markakis. The Orioles were right not to pay more for his services. That's my evaluation based solely on his performance for him this year (106 OPS+). Now, if you think the clubhouse is hurting not having him this year, you may have a point. Adam Jones certainly didn't hide the fact he wanted Markakis back. I have to imagine the "team first" mentality this club takes is starting to affect these guys on some level (see Wei-Yin Chen). Is that worth over-paying Markakis $3-4M per year for the next four years? It isn't to me, but it's valid to take the other side.

Pitching Matchups:

Monday: Kevin Gausman vs. Alex Wood

2015

W/L

IP

ERA+

FIP

WHIP

SO/W

Gausman

1-2

33.0

75

4.46

1.303

2.64

Wood

7-6

112.0

98

3.47

1.455

2.44

The less said about Gausman's last two outings the better. Someone (name is escaping me) was making the point on 105.7 recently that Gausman has made less than 40 minor league starts, so he's still a work in progress. Since three pitchers just got inducted into the Hall of Fame, let's compare that to how many starts those guys made. Not counting some rehab assignments later in their careers, Randy Johnson made 80. Pedro Martinez made 91. John Smoltz made 82. Gausman has 38. And we thought the yo-yo-ing the Orioles were doing with him was bad...forcing him up so soon seems almost criminal. I know a lot of teams do that with their guys now...doesn't make it right.

Alex Wood has hardly had a great year. He gives up a lot of runs, but is able to limit damage with the long ball. He's only given up eight home runs. He's not having nearly as good a year as last season - seems like someone the Orioles should be able to hit against.

Tuesday: Ubaldo Jimenez vs. Julio Teheran

2015

W/L

IP

ERA+

FIP

WHIP

SO/W

Jimenez

7-6

106.1

102

3.66

1.354

3.00

Teheran

6-5

120.1

82

4.37

1.371

2.27

The good news is based on this season stats, Jimenez is clearly the better pitcher. The bad news is Jimenez's last two starts looked like he was pitching during batting practice. In fact, Jimenez hasn't gotten a win since his start against Cleveland at the end of June. As a veteran pitcher who's pitched in both leagues, he has some experience against the Braves lineup and probably needs to look out for Jonny Gomes (yes, that was weird to type) who's a career .368 hitter against him with three home runs.

Julio Teheran is...OK? He honestly seems like someone the Orioles might have on their staff. Bad stats, but shows flashes of greatness (his last start he went seven innings against the Dodgers while striking out 11). He's also only given up six home runs in his last ten starts. I don't check every pitcher's splits, but I had a hunch about this guy. Sure enough, this year lefties have been teeing off on him. They have an .866 OPS (vs. .686 for righties) against him, and when pitching to lefties, Teheran's SO/W drops to less than half that against righties.

Wednesday: Chris Tillman vs. Manny Banuelos

2015

W/L

IP

ERA+

FIP

WHIP

SO/W

Tillman

7-7

105.0

82

4.10

1.400

1.86

Banuelos

1-2

21.2

150

4.45

1.338

1.60

Tillman! He didn't quite re-create his great start against Detroit last week vs. the Rays, but he got close. His start against the Nationals before those is nothing to scoff at either. Maybe most important for him lately is that he hasn't given up a home run in his last five starts. And after walking 28 through his first ten starts this season, he's dropped that to 14 over his last nine. So by any measure, Tillman has improved this season. Let's hope he keeps it up.

I don't know who Manny Banuelos is. He just made his major league debut earlier this month. I don't pay enough attention to the Braves' minor league system to know if this guy is supposed to be anyone great or not. Regardless, he made his debut three weeks ago. If you're a team with playoff aspirations, you win this game. You beat up on the rookie in your home stadium. No excuses, they just need to do it.

Other Notes:

- The Braves play in maybe the worst division in baseball and are still below .500. Being in 3rd place doesn't mean much when you're ahead of the Phillies and Marlins. That's even more true when you're beating you're pythagorean expectation by two wins. Getting lucky and still being bad? Ouch.

- The Braves rank near the bottom of the MLB in runs scored per game (3.77) vs. the Orioles' 4.33. They rank dead last in home runs with 58 (vs. the Orioles' 119). Their best offensive threat is Freddie Freeman, who leads the team with only 12 home runs.

- The Orioles and Braves last played in 2012, when the Orioles won two out of three at Atlanta. The Braves haven't been to Baltimore since 2009. All-time the Orioles are 16-20 against the Braves, though there was June 13, 1999 when the Orioles won 22-1. The lineup that day included Ripken, Anderson, Bordick, Surhoff, Belle, Clark, DeShields, and Mussina. Mussina? Yep - the game was played in Atlanta, so no DH. And as if throwing only 73 pitches through seven innings wasn't enough, he even had two hits and three RBIs. Put that man in the Hall of Fame!

- The Orioles have faced some bad bullpens lately but haven't done much to help themselves by letting the starters stay in the game too long. The Braves' bullpen has a 4.15 ERA - let's see if they can get to them sooner rather than later.

Prediction:

These last few weeks still have me thinking this team is a lot more 2013 than 2014, but the Braves are a bad team and the Orioles will surely be happy to be back home. O's win two out of three.