The Orioles, fresh off a three game sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates, travel to Atlanta for a three game weekend series. Baltimore is currently in second place in the American League East just a half game back of the New York Yankees. Atlanta sits in third place in the National League East five back of Washington.
The Orioles will start lefty Brian Matusz against Atlanta on Friday night. Matusz has rebounded from a dreadful 2011 campaign, but he was knocked around by the Red Sox last Thursday. Matusz allowed four runs on four hits and five walks in just two innings against Boston. The 25 year old former first round pick is 5-6 with a 4.82 ERA in 2012. Tommy Hanson gets the call for the Braves on Friday. Hanson is 7-4 with a 3.55 ERA in 13 starts for the Braves.
Saturday will feature the team’s top starters squaring off when Baltimore’s Jason Hammel battles Atlanta’s Brandon Beachy. Hammel has been on of the Orioles’ biggest surprises this season. Acquired in the winter from Colorado, the 29 year old Hammel is posting a career year. Hammel leads the O’s staff with six wins and has a 3.22 ERA. Beachyhas emerged as one of the National League’s best pitchers. Though just 5-4 on the season Beachy has a WHIP of 1.00 and a 1.98 ERA.
The Orioles will start Wei-Yin Chen on Sunday. Chen, a 26 year old import from the Japanese League, has been a steadying force in Baltimore’s rotation. The lefty is 6-2 with a 3.68 ERA in 12 starts. Atlanta will counter with rookie Randall Delgado.
Baltimore’s offense got a boost this week with the return of long-time leadoff man Brian Roberts. The return of Roberts gives the top of the O’s lineup credibility and allows Buck Showalter to use Robert Andino in a more suitable utility role. Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, and Chris Davis power the Baltimore offense. Jones is having a stellar season and leads the team in home runs, RBI, runs, and stolen bases. Wieters struggled during the month of May but has busted out in June. He drove in five runs in Thursday’s victory over the Pirates. Steve Pearce, a one time Pirates’ prospect, has filled in admirably in the outfield during Nick Markakis’ absence due to wrist surgery.
The Braves’ offense is lead by leadoff man Michael Bourn. The center fielder has scored 46 runs and stolen 17 bases in 63 games. Second baseman Dan Uggla leads the Braves in home runs (11) and RBI (41). The soon to be retired Chipper Jones is still a major offensive weapon for Atlanta. The 40 year old Jones has missed time due to injury but is still hitting .304 with five home runs, 24 RBI, and an OPS of .838 in 33 games.