Orioles-Braves Preview

The Baltimore Orioles could move back on top of the AL East

standings Friday night.

Atlanta Braves right-hander Tommy Hanson has always come out

ahead when he’s faced teams from that division.

Baltimore goes for a season-best sixth consecutive victory in

Friday’s series opener at Turner Field, while Hanson tries to help

the Braves avoid a fifth straight defeat.

One-half game behind the East-leading New York Yankees, the

Orioles (37-26) begin their six-game interleague trip on the heels

of a three-game sweep over Pittsburgh.

Steve Pearce homered and had a career-best five RBIs while Matt

Wieters had four hits and also drove in five as Baltimore set

season highs in hits (16) and runs in Thursday’s 12-6 victory.

It was the second time the Orioles had two players with at least

five RBIs, with the other coming June 13, 1999, when Cal Ripken (6)

and Will Clark (5) led a 22-1 victory over Atlanta.

“As of late the bats have started to heat up and the pitching

has still been there,” Chris Davis said of the Orioles, who are

batting .316 with 7.6 runs per game since their last loss. “It’s

kind of the offense’s turn to pull their weight.”

The Orioles, who last won six straight Aug. 22-28, will also try

to extend their five-game interleague winning streak as they face

Atlanta (34-29) for the first time since dropping two of three at

Turner Field from July 1-3.

The Braves, winners of 11 of 15 at home in this series, continue

their nine-game homestand after getting swept by the Yankees.

Atlanta has scored 10 times during its skid after averaging 5.5

runs during a six-game winning streak June 3-9.

“We’re not playing bad,” catcher Brian McCann told the Braves’

official website following Wednesday’s 3-2 loss. “We’re pitching

great – we’ve been in every ballgame.”

Giving the ball to Hanson (7-4, 3.55 ERA) could help the Braves

avoid their first five-game home skid since a six-game stretch to

end 2009.

Hanson has struck out 10 and walked one while winning his last

two starts.

“Tommy has been great,” second baseman Dan Uggla said after

Hanson went a season-high eight innings in Saturday’s 5-2 victory

over Toronto. “… He was on his game today, that’s for sure.”

That’s been the case in Hanson’s career against the AL East, as

he’s posted a 1.38 ERA while winning all six starts. He walked a

career-high five and gave up nine hits in his only start versus

Baltimore, but allowed only two runs over 5 2-3 innings in a 7-2

win at Camden Yards on June 12, 2009.

Brian Matusz (5-6, 4.82) will face the Braves for the first time

after his scheduled Wednesday start was pushed back when a ball

ricocheted off his bat and hit him in the nose Tuesday during

bunting practice.

“I should be fine for Friday,” Matusz told the Orioles’ official

website Wednesday.

The left-hander was far from fine June 7, when he walked a

career high-tying five and was tagged for five runs in two-plus

innings of a 7-0 loss at Boston.

“It’s hopefully a one-game setback,” manager Buck Showalter said

of Matusz, who was 4-1 with a 2.87 ERA in his previous five


Matusz, though, is 0-5 with a 7.49 ERA in six interleague starts

– allowing 11 homers in 33 2-3 innings.

Braves center fielder Michael Bourn is batting .393 (22 for 56)

during a team-best 13-game hitting streak.

Orioles third baseman Mark Reynolds, who had four hits and a

home run Thursday, hit three homers last season in Atlanta. He’s 1

for 8 with five strikeouts against Hanson.