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Orioles-Braves series preview: Atlanta comes to town in the midst of a hot streak

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Tonight is the first of three games in which the O’s will have to face their polar opposite: a first-place team that’s riding high on a six-game road winning streak.

MLB: SEP 15 Braves at Orioles
Orioles catcher Pedro Severino slides as the Braves Dansby Swanson tries to complete a double play during a game last year at Camden Yards.
Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Things won’t get any easier for Baltimore this weekend at Camden Yards. The cellar-dwelling O’s enter tonight’s three-game series on a 15-game losing streak. Their opponent is in the complete opposite situation.

The Atlanta Braves have won six games in a row and nine of their past 10. They just swept two road series, in Washington and Miami. Plus, they had yesterday off so they’re well-rested. The Braves are the current NL East division leaders, although the Phillies and Mets are four and 4.5 games behind, respectively. At 65-56, Atlanta enters play at nine games over .500.

The Orioles’ lineup will face at least two left-handed starters in this series, with the Braves currently undecided on their pitcher for game three. That should be an advantage for the O’s since they’re better against southpaws this year. Looking at the offensive platoon splits, Baltimore is slashing .262/.315/.436 against lefties versus .226/.293/.380 against righties.

That means Austin Hays is primed for a big series at the plate. He’s hitting .289 with a .523 SLG against left-handed pitching this year. His outfield counterpart Cedric Mullins has been the model of consistency in his first season batting just left-handed. He enters play with an identical .314 batting average against righties and lefties.

Game 1: Friday, 7:05 PM

LHP Keegan Akin (0-7, 8.13 ERA) vs. LHP Max Fried (10-7, 3.78 ERA)

The Orioles are showing confidence in their young starter by throwing him out there again in spite of his struggles. Akin has allowed nine runs in his past two starts covering seven total innings. With an ERA north of eight, it’s been a disappointing season for the left-hander. He’s still looking for his first win. If Akin isn’t pitching better by the end of August, the Orioles might choose to go in another direction with his rotation spot next month when rosters expand.

The Braves are going with 27-year-old Max Fried on the mound tonight, and he’s having a stellar 2021 season. In 20 starts, he’s got a sub-four ERA and a slightly lower FIP at 3.51. He’s also averaging more than a strikeout per inning. In his most recent start, the left-hander gave up two runs (one earned) over six innings against the Nats. Even though Fried has been around for almost five years, this will be his first career start against the O’s.

Game 2: Saturday, 7:05 PM

RHP Matt Harvey (6-12, 6.25 ERA) vs. LHP Drew Smyly (8-3, 4.50 ERA)

Since Matt Harvey’s scoreless innings streak — which spanned three starts after the All-Star break — he’s been trending down. In his three most recent starts, Harvey’s got a 6.59 ERA. The free passes and long ball numbers aren’t pretty either. He’s given up four home runs and six walks in his past 13.2 innings pitched. In his career, Harvey has a 4.94 ERA in 14 career games (13 starts) against the Braves. But it’s been a couple of years since he’s faced them.

Smyly is a true veteran journeyman, having played for six teams over the past eight years. He used to pitch in the AL East too. From mid-2014 through 2016, the left-hander put up a 3.95 ERA in 49 starts for the Rays. In 51.2 career innings (11 appearances, eight starts) against the O’s, Smyly has a 4.70 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, and 9.6 SO/9. The left-hander will look to shave down his current 4.50 ERA after he gave up three runs over four innings in his last start.

Game 3: Sunday, 1:05 PM

LHP John Means (5-5, 3.44 ERA) vs. TBD

The Orioles will send their struggling ace to the mound for the series finale. Since returning from a left shoulder strain in late July, Means has a 6.10 ERA in 31 innings pitched (six starts). His season-long ERA has risen from 2.28 to 3.44 in that time span. Another unsettling trend is Means’ performance at home. He’s carrying a 5.50 ERA at Camden Yards this year versus a 2.39 mark on the road. He’ll look to get back on track against the Braves.

Atlanta has not announced their starter for the series finale.

Poll

How many games will the Orioles win in this series against the Angels?

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    3 (sweep)
    (10 votes)
  • 7%
    2
    (18 votes)
  • 33%
    1
    (80 votes)
  • 54%
    0 (get swept)
    (131 votes)
239 votes total Vote Now