Braves look to continue hot stretch against dismal Orioles

MLB

The Atlanta Braves visit the Baltimore Orioles this weekend looking to bolster their lead in the National League East.

The Orioles are just looking for a win.

When the series opens Friday night, the Orioles will attempt to snap a 15-game losing streak, the second-longest skid in team history following their epic 0-21 start to the 1988 season.

The current steak hasn’t been marked by heartbreaking losses or might-have-beens. Baltimore has given up double-digit runs six times and lost every game by two or more runs while being outscored 138-42.

“It’s not easy right now,” manager Brandon Hyde said following the Orioles’ 7-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday in St. Petersburg, Fla. “We’re not in many games, and that’s hard. The one thing I was proud of the last couple was in a lot of our losses, we made it close. … Just right now we’re not even in the game.”

The Orioles open a nine-game homestand that promises no respite as the Braves, Los Angeles Angels and Rays visit Camden Yards.

The Braves are surging, coming in 6-0 on a nine-game road trip after sweeping the Washington Nationals and Miami Marlins. Atlanta has won 13 of 15 to take over the lead in the NL East.

Seeking a fourth straight NL East title, Atlanta has been sparked by Freddie Freeman. The reigning NL MVP is 22-for-57 (.386) over the past 15 games with four homers, 11 RBIs, 14 runs and a .649 slugging percentage.

Freeman hit for his second career cycle Wednesday in the Braves’ 11-9 win over the Marlins. He has raised his average to .301 after he struggled early in the season and was still mired in the .220s in mid-June.

“You could tell he was a little down at the beginning of the year, but really he’s just the same guy,” Braves pitcher Charlie Morton said. “He’s just really even-keeled and doesn’t really say a lot. He just goes out and just does his job. And man, it’s impressive.”

Atlanta left-hander Max Fried (10-7, 3.78 ERA) will oppose Baltimore lefty Keegan Akin (0-7, 8.13) in the opener.

Fried has gone at least six innings and given up two earned runs or fewer in each of his past four starts. Last time out, he allowed two runs — one earned — in six innings of a win against the Nationals. He struck out seven without a walk. He has never faced the Orioles.

Akin has given up nine runs over seven innings in his past two starts, but has last outing was encouraging. After allowing a three-run homer in the first inning of a loss to the Boston Red Sox, he rebounded to finish with three scoreless frames.

“A little better than the last couple starts, but still gotta get a little better, go deeper in the game,” Akin said. “But happy with it, especially after the first inning. Just gotta bounce back and get a little better next outing.”

That could be a tall order in Camden Yards against a Braves team that ranks third in the majors with 176 homers. However, Akin’s only big-league win came when he threw five shutout innings against Atlanta last September.

Freeman insists the Braves won’t look past the Orioles.

“Everyone says you should take care of business against certain teams, but this is baseball,” Freeman said. “Anything can happen on any given night. You have to play well to beat the other side, and we’ve done that.”

–Field Level Media

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