O’s game blog: Alex Cobb pitches series opener in Atlanta

The Orioles’ two-city road trip moves on to Atlanta tonight as they open a three-game series with the Braves at SunTrust Park. The trip started with the Orioles (21-52) losing two of three at Washington.

Last night’s 4-2 loss was the Orioles 11th loss in 13 games and they have dropped 18 of 22 and 20 of 26 games over longer stretches. While they are in last place in the American League East, the Braves (43-30) are the surprising leaders in the National League East by three games over Washington.

Atlanta has won six of its last eight games, pitching to a 2.79 team ERA in that span. Atlanta has been in first place 47 of the last 49 days and is enjoying its largest division lead since 2013. It’s a nice improvement on a 2017 season when the Braves went 72-90 and finished 25 games out.

The Orioles scored 12 runs on 20 hits in three games at Nats Park, but went 0-4 last night with runners in scoring position and 0-for-17 with RISP in that series. This is a stat where these two teams have had much different results. Atlanta is batting .286 with RISP to lead the NL while the Orioles are batting .209 with RISP to rank last in the AL.

The Braves have had a good offensive year. They rank first in the NL in runs scored, second in batting average (.258), third in OBP (.325), first in slugging (.429) and sixth with 87 home runs.

Former Oriole Nick Markakis, who has never made an All-Star team, is the current leader in the voting among NL outfielders. Markakis at age 34 is having his best year since probably his 2012 season with the Orioles. That was the last time he posted an OPS of over .800. Right now he ranks tied for first in the NL in hits (93) and is tied for second in doubles (21). Markakis is batting .323/.387/.479 with eight homers, 44 RBIs and an OPS of .866. His batting average is third-best in the league.

Cobb Gray Sidebar.jpgRight-hander Alex Cobb (2-9, 7.14 ERA) gets the start for the Orioles. Cobb has followed up a recent solid stretch of three quality starts in four games, by allowing 14 runs over 10 2/3 on 18 hits his past two starts. He just can’t seem to get much positive momentum going this year and the Orioles are 2-10 in his outings. Cobb is 2-5 with a 7.91 ERA in eight road starts.

Left-hander Sean Newcomb (8-2, 2.70 ERA) will make his 15th start for Atlanta. He ranks seventh in the NL in ERA and tied for third in wins and opponent average at .204. Newcomb has thrown six scoreless starts, including in two of his past three starts. He threw six scoreless versus San Diego in his last outing. In eight night game starts, Newcomb is 6-1 with a 1.86 ERA. He averages 93 mph on his fastball which he throws 63 percent of the time followed by a changeup thrown 21 percent and a curve at 15 percent.

The 25-year-old Newcomb was the Los Angeles Angels top draft pick (No. 15 overall) in 2014 and got a $2.5 million signing bonus. He was a Baseball America top 100 prospect three times when he was No. 70 at the end of 2014, No. 24 at the end of 2015 and No. 78 following the 2016 season.

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