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Orioles-Braves series preview: Baltimore looks to make a statement against NL’s best

The last time the Orioles went to Atlanta, they were the worst team in baseball. Now they go back looking to make a statement.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Kansas City Royals Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Orioles head to Atlanta this weekend for the first time since 2018. The last time the Birds from Baltimore made a visit to Cobb County, Buck Showalter was still the manager, the Braves lineup was anchored by Freddie Freeman and Birdland favorite Nick Markakis and Atlanta was still mired in a two-decade title drought. Fast forward five years and a lot has changed for both franchises.

Gone are players like Freeman and Manny Machado, with each club now led by 25-year-old stars in Ronald Acuña Jr. and Adley Rutschman. The Braves ended their title drought in 2021 and—besides Freeman, who they replaced with Matt Olson—the majority of that squad is still in Atlanta. The Orioles have improved greatly over the last five seasons as well, going from perennial cellar dwellers to fighting for the top spot in the AL early in this season.

While the O’s should feel plenty confident after wrapping up their seventh straight series win yesterday in Kansas City, the Braves undoubtedly present Baltimore with its biggest test of the young season. Atlanta leads the National League in runs per game at 5.48 and only the Rays have a higher OPS in all of baseball. Acuña has been the heartbeat of the Braves' offensive attack, posting bonafide superstar numbers early in 2023. The three-time All-Star leads all of baseball with 73 total bases, is third with a .355 average and paces the MLB with 15 stolen bases.

The Braves lineup is far from a one-star show, however. Second baseman Ozzie Albies is right behind Acuña with 72 total bases and a team-leading nine home runs. Atlanta’s big-time offseason acquisition Sean Murphy has also fit in seamlessly in the NL East. The former A’s catcher leads the Braves with a .633 slugging percentage and is just behind Acuña with a .439 on-base percentage. When Murphy and Rutschman square off, it’ll be a battle between baseball’s best two catchers.

Atlanta hasn’t ascended to the top spot in the National League solely on the strength of its offense, though. The Braves starting pitchers have combined for the fourth most Wins Above Average of any rotation in the majors. The O’s also won’t have the luck of facing the weaker part of the Atlanta rotation, as Charlie Morton (3.38 ERA, 1.44 WHIP) and Kyle Wright (5.79 ERA, 1.77 WHIP) aren’t scheduled to start in the series.

Game 1: Friday, 7:20pm ET, MASN

Scheduled starters: Dean Kremer (2-1, 6.67 ERA, 1.58 WHIP) vs. Max Fried (2-0, 0.45 ERA, 0.90 WHIP)

One of the Orioles' biggest accomplishments this season is their 10-0 record in series openers. Friday’s matchup undoubtedly will put that record to the test in a big way. Of all the Orioles starters, Kremer has struggled the most. He’s coming off a start in Detroit where he gave up five runs and 11 hits over five innings, taking the loss. In all but one of Kremer’s starts this season, he’s given up 4+ runs.

The good news is that Kremer’s best start of the season—6.2 scoreless innings—came against a National League opponent. The bad news: that was against the Nationals, who are a much different test than this Atlanta lineup. While the O’s righty has never faced Atlanta—home or away—he can lean on a strong career interleague record. When facing the senior circuit, Kremer is 3-1 with a 3.63 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP.

What makes things even tougher for the O’s is that they’ll have to go against a pitcher in Fried who has been almost unhittable to start the season. After giving up one run in an injury-shortened Opening Day start against the Nats, Fried hasn’t allowed another runner to cross home plate. Since he’s returned from a brief stint on the IL, Fried has put up 16.2 scoreless innings over three starts. Unlike Kremer and the Braves, Fried does have some familiarity with the O’s. Back in 2021, he pitched a complete game shutout against Baltimore in Camden Yards. So the Orioles will be looking to break both Fried’s current scoreless streak and a personal drought against the southpaw.

Game 2: Saturday, 7:15pm ET, FOX

Scheduled starters: Kyle Bradish vs. Spencer Strider (4-0, 2.57 ERA, 0.94)

Things don’t get any easier for the Orioles in Game 2 as they face off against Atlanta’s second-year sensation in Spencer Strider. After finishing as the runner-up for Rookie of the Year last year, Strider has continued to elevate his game in 2023. His 57 Ks lead the NL and his 14.7 K/9 rate is the best in all of baseball. The Orioles may be catching Strider at the right time, though, as he’s coming off his worst start of the season. Earlier this week against the Mets, Strider allowed four runs over five innings and the Braves barely hung on for a 9-8 win. The flame-throwing righty has also been a little more susceptible at home, with a 3.00 ERA at Truist Park versus a 2.12 ERA on the road.

For Bradish, 2023 has been a roller coaster of a season through four starts. After only lasting 1.2 innings in his first start due to an injury, he came back and pitched six shutout innings in D.C. He followed that up with an awful showing against his nemesis, the Red Sox, allowing seven runs and failing to make it out of the third inning.

The Orioles’ second-year righty was better last time out against Detroit—allowing three runs and punching out five—but he lasted only 4.2 innings. Bradish will hope to make better use of his breaking balls if he is to neutralize the Braves' lineup. In his rookie season, Bradish’s slider and curveball were plus offerings that offset an uninspiring fastball. In 2023, Bradish’s breaking stuff has struggled to be average and his performances have often suffered due to his lack of control with his slider and curve.

Game 3: Sunday, 11:35am ET, Peacock

Scheduled starters: Tyler Wells (2-1, 3.34 ERA, 0.77 WHIP) vs. Bryce Elder (3-0, 1.75 ERA, 1.06 WHIP)

After getting the honor of playing the Saturday night primetime game, the O’s are back at it bright and early Sunday morning with another national game. Tyler Wells has been the Orioles' best starter all season and he’ll look to prove that again in the series finale. He does have a very brief history against the Braves, getting two outs against them in the ninth inning of a 5-4 O’s loss in 2021. Wells has typically been at his best on the road, as he has a 3.17 ERA with a 0.91 WHIP away from Camden Yards. In three road appearances this season, Wells has a 3.85 ERA with a 0.73 WHIP with three Orioles wins. Against this version of the Braves, it’ll be a strength vs. strength matchup for Wells. His fastball has been his best weapon all season, but hitters like Acuña and Murphy have dominated fastballs all season.

While Bryce Elder may represent the least intimidating head of the Braves rotation’s three-headed monster, he is by no means a pushover. The rookie pitcher from Texas has leaned on a sinker/slider combo to great success early in the season, with his breaking ball ranking as the second-best slider in all the majors. This matchup presents a great opportunity for breakout star Jorge Mateo, as the shortstop is hitting .400 with a .900 slugging percentage against sliders. Elder’s last start of the season at Truist Park was also his worst of the season, as he allowed four runs over 5.1 innings against the Marlins.


While there’s still plenty of season left after this series, this one feels like a huge litmus test for this young Orioles team. A series win and the Orioles will not only have their eighth straight series victory but their first triumph over one of the MLBs heavyweights. The records say that the O’s are the second best in the American League—but there seems to be a prevailing belief that Baltimore’s record is fool’s gold. Make a statement in Atlanta and the rest of the baseball-watching world will start to believe what Birdland already knows.


How many games with the Orioles win against the Braves?

This poll is closed

  • 5%
    3 (get the brooms out)
    (23 votes)
  • 21%
    (98 votes)
  • 57%
    (255 votes)
  • 15%
    0 (get swept out of town)
    (71 votes)
447 votes total Vote Now