On Thursday, the Baltimore Ravens came away with a thrilling 13-10 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs. Sorry, I got confused. Believe it or not, it was the Orioles beating the Royals 13-10. That series was full of ups and downs, and I am thankful it is over. Let's take a look at what the Orioles will see on the back half of this road trip against the Atlanta Braves.
Game 1: Dean Kremer v Max Fried
The Orioles will send Dean Kremer to the mound in game one. Kremer is coming off of a nightmare outing that saw him yield 5 ER and 11 hits to a soft hitting Detroit Tigers lineup in 5.0 innings. Kremer has given up four or five runs in five of his six starts in 2023. Kremer teased fans with his talent against the Washington Nationals but boasts a swollen 6.67 ERA. The Orioles will be looking for Kremer to eat up some innings after using five relievers in Thursday's win over the Royals, but Kremer may have a short leash due to his early season struggles.
Max Fried will take the mound for the Atlanta Braves. Fried was the Braves opening day starter but left the game with a leg injury. After a short stint on the IL, Fried has returned and has been pitching lights out. Fried has pitched 16.2 innings over three starts since returning from the IL, and has yet to give up a run in that time. Fried will carry a microscopic 0.45 ERA into his start against the Orioles.
Game 2: Kyle Bradish v Spencer Strider
Kyle Bradish will take the ball for the Birds in game two. Like Fried, Bradish was knocked out early in his first start and took a short trip to the IL. Bradish pitched very well in his first game back, shutting out the Nationals and scattering five hits over 6.0 innings. Since then, Bradish has come crashing back to earth giving up 10 ER in just 7.0 innings combined over his last two starts, jumping his ERA to 6.14. Which Bradish will we see against this tough Braves lineup?
One of the biggest surprises in baseball last season was the emergence of Spencer Strider. Strider started the season in Atlanta's bullpen but quickly bullied his way into the starting rotation. Strider finished the season second in Rookie of the Year voting behind his teammate Michael Harris II. Strider has continued to dominate opposing teams this season boasting a 4-0 record with 57 strikeouts in 35.0 innings and a 2.57 ERA in six starts.
Game 3: Tyler Wells v Bryce Elder
Tyler Wells is set to pitch the series finale for the Birds. Wells continues to be the best starter on the Orioles this season. While he did give up 4 ER to the Royals in his last outing, he only gave up three hits (all of which were homeruns). For the most part Wells has pounded the strike zone and pitched very well, holding opposing hitters to a .171 BAA, good for third in the Junior Circuit. If Wells can avoid giving up a big inning, he should be able to keep the Orioles in great position to close the series on a win.
Bryce Elder is coming off his best game of the season where he held the Miami Marlins to three hits in 7.0 innings. Elder also has a very good 1.75 ERA this season, which is second in the National League. Elder doesn't have the name recognition or the strikeout numbers that Fried and Strider have, but he has been very effective all season long.
All that pitching isn't the only reason the Braves sit at the top of the National League East at 22-10. The Braves also bring one of baseball's best lineups to the park, highlighted by arguably the best player in the Senior Circuit, Ronald Acuna Jr. Acuna looks to finally be healthy again and is playing at an MVP level. Acuna is slashing .355/.444/.595 and is leading the majors in runs (28), hits (43) and stolen bases (15). He's also leading his league in doubles (11). Acuna is supported by stars Matt Olson, Sean Murphy, Ozzie Albies and Austin Riley. The Braves can beat you in many different ways and will be looking to make a statement against the Orioles in this battle two of the top three teams in baseball so far this season.
If any team is up to the challenge of the Braves it is the Orioles. The O's have one of the top offenses in baseball, as evidenced in the series against the Royals. True they were shutout for the first time this season in game two, but they scored 24 total runs in games one and three. Anthony Santander has turned his bat on and has two hits in each of his last three games. Ryan Mountcastle has the ability to explode at any moment, and Jorge Mateo and Adley Rutschman just keep hitting. The speed of the Orioles on the base paths will disrupt the Braves pitchers and the Orioles patience at the plate will help them get into the Braves bullpen. We've all seen what the Orioles can do late in games against the bullpen. This series will be hard fought and we could see some more football like scores, but the Orioles will look to end their road trip with their eighth consecutive series win.