While most of their National League East foes continue to prove their mettle, the Braves have lost four straight, the last three coming in a sweep at the hands of the Yankees.
On Friday night at Turner Field, the first chance at a turnaround comes against the Orioles, who have won five straight. This weekend's three-game set will be the only time the two teams meet during the regular season.
Taking the mound for the Braves will be right-hander Tommy Hanson, who has posted back-to-back quality starts. Hanson started the Braves' last win, on June 9 against the Blue Jays, and lasted eight innings while allowing two runs on five hits. Six days earlier, Hanson contained the Nationals, surrendering just two runs on six hits in seven innings. For the season, the 25-year-old is 7-4 with a 3.55 ERA in 76 innings.
"Tommy has been great," Braves second baseman Dan Uggla said after Hanson defeated Toronto. "He's a bulldog, just like the rest of our [starters]. He's going to go out there and battle and compete. He was on his game today, that's for sure."
Opposite Hanson, Brian Matusz will suit up on eight days' rest after being scratched from a start scheduled for Wednesday due to a nose bruise he suffered during batting practice on Tuesday. X-rays were negative, and Matusz said he was mentally prepared to pitch on Wednesday, though manager Buck Showalter elected to have the left-hander rest.
"I should be fine for Friday," Matusz said. "There's a little bit of pain there, but I've been doing activities and I feel fine. I can breathe just fine. I slept really well last night, and I feel 100 percent."
Matusz lasted only two-plus innings in his last start, on June 7 against the Red Sox, allowing five runs (four earned) on four hits. He also walked five batters while striking out none, snapping a string of four straight quality starts.
Both pitchers should have their hands full, as the Braves and Orioles as of Thursday were eighth and ninth, respectively, in the Majors with 4.71 and 4.44 runs scored per game. Atlanta, however, has scored more than four runs just once in its last six games -- Hanson's last start.
Orioles: Chavez placed on disabled list
Baltimore placed outfielder Endy Chavez on the 15-day disabled list prior to Thursday's game against the Pirates and recalled outfielder Steve Tolleson from Triple-A Norfolk.
Given the team's upcoming schedule, Showalter felt the move was a necessity.
"I'll be frank with you, if we weren't playing six National League games coming up, we might have waited," said Showalter, whose O's travel to Atlanta and New York for a six-game road trip starting on Friday. "It's tough to have a three-man bench with one of them being a catcher and one of them potentially being Nick [Johnson]. We got to have some maneuverability there."
Braves: Heyward's bat heating up
With his 2-for-4 effort in Wednesday's 3-2 loss to the Yankees, right fielder Jason Heyward raised his batting average to .250. After seeing his average dip as low as .233 on May 30, Heyward has 10 hits in his last 36 at-bats (.278) with two home runs, two doubles and seven RBIs.
Since 1997, the Braves have won 19 of their 36 games against the Orioles.
Orioles outfielder Nick Markakis (right wrist surgery) will travel with the team to Atlanta and New York and has continued doing some work with his left hand while trying to minimize the scarring in his right hand to speed up the healing process.