In previous years, a matchup against Orioles would be an easy series win, but this is not the Orioles team of two or three years ago. Baltimore comes into the series with an impressive 21-10 record, having built off their breakthrough 83 win season last year.
The Braves have already separated themselves from the divisional pack, with a rain interrupted series win against the Mets and a sweep over the Marlins. The bullpen still hasn’t been overly convincing, but has shown positive signs in the Marlins series. AJ Minter had a scoreless inning in the 14-6 win, something that was much needed for his confidence after several blow up outings. He also got the save in a 6-3 win in the series finale.
Bullpen help looks to be on the way soon, in the form of closer Raisel Iglesias whose return is imminent. Shortstop Orlando Arcia began taking dry swings Thursday and continues to progress. Travis d’Arnaud has been hitting and running the bases, but he has still not been cleared to return from his concussion.
The Orioles are coming off a series win against the lowly Royals, where they scored over 10 runs twice. Despite their 21-10 record, Baltimore is 4.5 games out of first place thanks to the red hot Rays. Offensively, the Orioles have been led by the trio of Jorge Mateo, Adley Rutschman and Cedric Mullins. All three have an fWAR of at least 1 and an wRC+ of at least 120. Baltimore is also a threat on the base paths with 30 stolen bases, the fourth most in baseball. Of those 30 stolen bases, 21 of them have come from Mateo and Mullins. The Orioles also have a fantastic bullpen led by Felix Bautista which they lean on heavily.
Friday, May 5, 7:20 p.m. ET (Bally Sports Southeast)
Max Fried (2023: 4 GS, 20 IP, 24.3 K%, 5.4 BB%, 64.7 GB%, 0.45 ERA, 2.16 FIP)
Max Fried has been absolutely brilliant in his three starts since coming off the injured list. In those three starts, he has put together 16.2 scoreless innings against the Padres, Astros and Mets, three quality offenses. Fried has excellent at forcing ground balls, with his 64.7 GB% being second in baseball among pitchers with at least 20 innings. Fried has been great at limiting hard contact, not allowing a single barrel all season and has only given up two extra base hits all season, neither being a home run. He added more strikeouts in his last start, with seven in five innings against the Mets. He only went five innings because the game was called after the fifth due to rain. Fried has only faced the O’s once in his career, but in that one start he threw a complete game shutout.
Dean Kremer (2023: 6 GS, 29.2 IP, 18.9 K%, 6.8 BB%, 36.5 GB%, 6.67 ERA, 5.85 FIP)
After putting together a quality 2022 campaign where he threw 125.1 innings with a 3.23 ERA, Kremer has been unable replicate that success in 2023. Despite gaining over a tick on his fastball, hitters have been teeing off on the pitch, to the tune a .390 batting average against. Kremer got hit hard by the Tigers in his last outing, given up 11 hits and five runs in five innings. Kremer’s also had a problem with the long ball this season with his HR/9 going from 0.79 to 2.12. If Kremer keeps up this level of performance, he could be in for a long night against the Braves.
Saturday, May 6, 7:15 p.m. ET (FOX)
Spencer Strider (2023: 6 GS, 35 IP, 41 K%, 10.1 BB%, 31.8 GB%, 2.57 ERA, 2.21 FIP)
Strider is coming off a shaky start against the Mets where he gave up four runs in five innings. Despite the struggles he still got eight strikeouts, the lowest total for him this season, which says something about his ability to generate swings and misses. Strider has had some issues with walks this season with a walk rate of over 10%, but he has made up for it with the strikeouts. Strider has never faced the Orioles before, but after his last start against the Mets, Strider will come in with a point to prove. Strider has had some trouble early in his starts but has normally settled in as the game has progressed. Strider is one of the best pitchers in baseball and should be back to his best on Saturday.
Kyle Bradish (2023: 4 GS, 14.2 IP, 19.7 K%, 9.9 BB%, 55.1 GB%, 6.14 ERA, 4.86 FIP)
Kyle Bradish is another Orioles starter who has struggled this season. In a season where the O’s have been so good, the rotation has been the obvious weak point. Bradish has struggled in his last two starts, failing to complete five innings in each of his last two starts. He got lit up in his second to last start against the Red Sox giving up seven runs in 2.1 innings. He has a 1.84 WHIP, which means he has been walking a lot of people and giving up a lot of hits. He does have some tools, with a slider and a curveball with a whiff rate of over 40%, but like Kremer, his fastball has not been a viable big league pitch. His underlying numbers suggest some positive regression, but not enough to make him an above average arm.
Sunday, May 7, 11:35 a.m. ET (Peacock, NBC)
Bryce Elder (2023: 6 GS, 36 IP, 22.5 K%, 6.3 BB%, 57.6 GB%, 1.75 ERA, 3.58 FIP)
Against all odds, Bryce Elder has continued to do his thing. Despite a sub 90 MPH fastball, Elder has been outstanding. After a shaky start against the Marlins, he redeemed himself against Miami last time out with his best start off the season, going seven scoreless innings, allowing three hits without a walk. Elder overcomes his lack of velocity by having high end command and mixing his pitches like a seasoned veteran despite the fact he is just 23. He has been keeping the ball on the ground and limiting free passes, things that are essential for a player of his profile. Elder will hope his command and plus slider can help him solve the Orioles lineup.
Tyler Wells (2023: 5 GS, 35 IP, 20.8 K%, 4.6 BB%, 35.4 GB%, 3.34 ERA, 5.01 FIP)
Tyler Wells has been one of the better starting pitchers for the O’s, as can be seen by his 3.34 ERA. However, his margin for error is small as a fly ball pitcher without overwhelming stuff. This has made the long ball a nemesis of Wells, who has given up 1.80 HR/9 this season. Three of those home runs came in his last start against Kansas City where he gave up four runs despite giving the O’s length with his six innings. Wells was serviceable last season, pitching to a 4.25 ERA in 103.2 innings. He has faced the Braves once in a relief appearance where he pitched 0.2 scoreless innings. Wells is good at keeping guys off the base paths with a 1.01 WHIP for his career, but he is susceptible to giving up loud contact.