Orioles-Braves Preview

Several well-known pitchers have carried the Atlanta Braves this

season, but rookie Brandon Beachy is starting to make a name for

himself as well.

Beachy takes the mound for Atlanta as it tries to extend the

longest current active winning streak in interleague play and

complete a three-game sweep of the visiting Baltimore Orioles on

Sunday.

The Braves (49-35) boast one of the best pitching staffs in

baseball, evidenced by their 3.04 ERA which is tied with

Philadelphia for lowest in the majors. The first two games of this

series have improved that number.

Jair Jurrjens threw a one-hitter during Friday’s 4-0 win to

become the NL’s first 11-game winner, and Tim Hudson improved to

3-1 with a 2.10 ERA in his last five starts with six solid innings

during Saturday’s 5-4 victory – the Braves’ ninth straight during

interleague play.

The Orioles (35-45) don’t figure to see any dropoff against

Beachy (3-1, 3.04 ERA), who ranks second in ERA among rookies with

at least 50 innings. The right-hander, who was converted from

reliever to full-time starter with Double-A Mississippi around a

year ago, has looked more like a seasoned veteran than an

inexperienced 24-year-old of late.

Beachy compiled a 2.98 ERA and struck out 45 over his first

seven starts spanning 42 1-3 innings before getting hurt May 13.

He’s been even more overpowering since his return.

In his first outing since missing more than a month with a

strained left oblique, Beachy fanned a season-best 11 during a 5-1

victory over Toronto on June 22 and struck out nine in six innings

of Monday’s 3-1 win at Seattle. He became the first Braves rookie

since 1900 to combine for 20 or more strikeouts while winning

back-to-back starts.

“He’s been able to command his fastball and throw the

curveball,” manager Fredi Gonzalez told Atlanta’s official website.

“Then his changeup keeps getting better and better.”

Beachy, though, has made it through seven innings just once in

10 starts this season.

“I’m wasting too many pitches. I would like to get deeper into

games,” he said. “I really need to get through seven, get into the

eighth inning. That’s just something I need to be able to do. I

need to be more efficient.”

Saturday’s loss was the fifth straight and dropped Baltimore a

season-worst 10 games below .500. The Orioles, who lost eight in a

row in April, will give the ball to rookie Zach Britton (6-6,

3.38).

Since going 5-2 with a 2.14 ERA over his first nine outings, the

left-hander is 1-4 with a 5.22 mark over his past seven games.

He yielded four runs and seven hits in 5 2-3 innings of

Tuesday’s 6-2 loss to St. Louis, dropping to 0-2 with a 4.32 ERA in

three interleague starts.

“This is a 23-year-old young man trying to establish himself in

the big leagues with about half a year in Triple-A, and he’s doing

well,” manager Buck Showalter said. “…It’s a process for him and

he’s doing some things real well and some things he’ll do better as

he goes forward.”

On a positive note, third baseman Mark Reynolds hit his

team-leading 16th and 17th home runs Saturday.

“I don’t enjoy losing. I never have,” Reynolds said. “Obviously,

two home runs are nice but, I mean, it’s for nothing.”

Baltimore’s Nick Markakis had three hits Saturday, and is

batting .406 with three homers and 13 RBIs in his last 21

games.