Up next for the low flying Baltimore Orioles is a weekend series with the 2nd place Atlanta Braves.  The Orioles have not played a game in Atlanta since 2006.  The Orioles lost 2 out of 3 games on their last visit, but clearly much has changed for both teams in 5 years.  What has not changed is the Orioles need to play better baseball.  The club showed some signs of life winning the weekend series over the Reds, but they got very little pitching and little meaningful hitting while losing three straight to the Cardinals.

In Atlanta, the Orioles face an opponent with a dominant pitching staff.  The Braves rank 2nd in baseball with a 3.07 ERA.  They lead the majors holding opposing teams to a .230 batting average and they are 2nd in all of baseball with 51 quality starts.  Simply put, the Orioles are likely to struggle to score runs this weekend.  Atlanta’s pitching staff excels at limiting base runners, they throw strikes and can get strikeouts when they need them.  As good as the Braves pitching staffs of the nineties were, the current staff seems to be more talented.

Conversely, the Braves offense if rather pedestrian.  Brian McCann is a dynamic bat and rookie Freddie Freeman is an up and coming hitter, but Jason Heyward is having a disappointing sophomore season and Chipper Jones is not the threat he once was.  The Orioles also catch a break with Martin Prado still on the DL with a calf injury.  The Orioles will need to contain the Atlanta bats to have much of a shot in this series.  The problem is that Buck Showalter has little idea what he will get out of his starting pitchers right now.

Orioles starters have struggled to throw many innings and aside from Jake Arietta no one has been consistent.  Fortunately, Arietta will get the ball this weekend and so will Jeremy Guthrie and Zach Britton.  Britton and Guthrie have been very inconsistent in recent starts.  Perhaps Britton is needing to make adjustments as the leagues have more video on and at bats against him.

Offensively, the Orioles continue to get power from off-season acquisitions Mark Reynolds and JJ Hardy.  Adam Jones also continues to up his level of play.  The rest of the power bats are not really keeping up.  Nick Markakis is swinging a better bat, but he does not seem like an offensive presence that puts fear into opposing pitchers.  Markakis is a table setter with very occasional power.  If anyone else steps up it will be huge against a pitching staff that will give the Orioles fits this weekend.

Here are the match-ups on the mound and the start times for the series:
Friday, 7:35pm MASNHD
Jeremy Guthrie (3-9, 3.93) vs. Jair Jurrjens (10-3, 2.07)

Saturday, 7:10pm MASNHD
Jake Arrieta (9-4, 4.50) vs. Tim Hudson (6-6, 3.51)

Sunday, 1:35pm MASNHD
Zach Britton (6-6, 3.38) vs. Brandon Beachy (3-1, 3.04)