Opposite dugout: Markakis, Braves struggling with power entering return to Baltimore

braves-logo.jpgManager: Fredi Gonzalez (5th season)

Record: 46-52

Last 10 games: 4-6

Who to watch: 1B Freddie Freeman (.298/.368/.516 with 12 HR and 41 RBIs), RF Nick Markakis (.286/.368/.359 with 32 RBIs), C A.J. Pierzynski (.286 with 6 HR, 30 RBIs), RHP Shelby Miller (7-6, 3.78 ERA), RHP Jim Johnson (20 holds, 2.11 ERA)

Season series vs. Orioles: First meeting (1-2 in 2012)

Pitching probables:

July 27: LHP Alex Wood vs. RHP Kevin Gausman, 7:05 p.m., MASN
July 28: RHP Julio Teheran vs. RHP Ubaldo Jimenez, 7:05 p.m., MASN
July 29: RHP Manny Banuelos vs. RHP Chris Tillman, 7:05 p.m., MASN

Inside the Braves:

A familiar face returns to Camden Yards when the Braves come to Baltimore this week. Longtime Oriole right fielder Nick Markakis makes his return to face his former team for the first time after nine seasons with the club. It may bring back some fond memories seeing Markakis back in front of the flag court at Camden Yards, where he won two Gold Gloves (2011 and 2014), but it may also be odd to see him in the visitor team's jersey and dugout.

Markakis slashed a line of .290/.358/.435 with 141 home runs and 658 RBIs in more than 1,300 games during the course of his career with the Orioles. He batted .288/.351/.443 in over 680 games at Camden Yards with 82 homers and 326 RBIs. And he is batting much of the same in his first season in Atlanta with a .286/.368/.359 line in 97 games. However, he has only one home run this season with 32 RBIs. Markakis hit 10-plus homers in each season with the Birds. Obviously, he hasn't faced many of the O's pitchers in regular season games, but he has gone up against Tommy Hunter, Ubaldo Jimenez and Darren O'Day. He is 2-for-7 with a double and an RBI against Hunter, 2-for-5 with a home run and strikeout against Jimenez and no hits with a walk in two plate appearances against O'Day.

Helping Markakis in Atlanta's lineup is first baseman Freddie Freeman, who played for the first time on Sunday since coming off the disabled list with a wrist injury. Even though Freeman missed a month, he still leads the club with 12 homers while slashing .298/.368/.516 with 41 RBIs. In fact, he is the only Brave who has hit more than10 homers. Catcher A.J. Pierzynski has hit for a line of .286/.326/.433 with six homers and 30 RBIs. He had four hits in seven at-bats over his last two games this past weekend against the Cardinals.

Other than some good batting averages, there is no real power in the Braves lineup, which has resulted in Atlanta hitting the fewest home runs (59) and being tied for the second-lowest slugging percentage (.362) in the majors. Center fielder Cameron Maybin brings a .282 batting average with eight home runs and 47 RBIs to Baltimore. Shortstop Andrelton Simmons is batting .263, but with only three homers and 30 RBIs. Second baseman Jace Peterson is hitting .246 on the season with 40 RBIs, but only .176 with five RBIs so far in July.

Left-hander Alex Wood leads the Braves rotation with a 7-6 record and has a 3.78 ERA this season. He throws an 89 mph fastball 66 percent of the time, an 80 mph curveball 19 percent of the time and an 83 mph changeup 15 percent of the time. He is 5-3 with a 3.11 ERA on the road as opposed to 2-3 with an ERA of 4.99 at home this season. Right-handers are hitting .303 off Wood, while lefties are batting .278. This is the first time Wood will face the Orioles, but he has pitched against Travis Snider and David Lough, allowing three hits including a homer in seven at-bats to Snider and a hit in the only at-bat against Lough.

Righty Julio Teheran will start the middle game of this three-game series in Baltimore against Ubaldo Jimenez. Teheran is 6-5 with a 4.49 ERA in 20 starts this season. Unlike Wood, Teheran is not as productive on the road. He is actually the complete opposite of Wood, going 1-4 with a 6.95 ERA in 10 road starts and 5-1 with an ERA of 2.37 at home. Right-handed batters are only batting .232 against Teheran, but lefties see him well by hitting .308. He too hasn't pitched against the Orioles yet in his career, but has faced Travis Snider and Chris Parmelee. Teheran has given up three hits with two doubles in Snider's nine plate appearances against him, while striking out Parmelee twice in three at-bats.

Rookie righty Manny Banuelos will be making his fifth career start in the series finale against Chris Tillman. Banuelos is 1-2 with a 2.49 ERA over his five appearances this season, which includes one inning of relief work, but with both losses coming in his last two starts. Those losses didn't come against easy opponents, however, with the Cubs and Cardinals' powerful lineups. In his debut, Banuelos went 5 2/3 innings against the Nationals at home while giving up two hits, no runs and striking out seven in a no-decision. His debut was the longest he has gone in a start this season. This will be Banuelos' fourth start on the road, where he is 1-1 with 3.97 ERA. He throws an 89 mph fastball 56 percent of the time and 79 mph changeup 23 percent of the time while mixing in am 83 mph slider and 75 mph curveball.

Right-hander Jim Johnson is another former Oriole making a return to Camden Yards this week. Johnson is is 2-3 with a 2.11 ERA in 47 innings pitched this season. He recorded his ninth save on Sunday against the Cardinals and leads the Braves with 20 holds. He has stepped back into the closer's role after right-hander Jason Grilli was placed on the 60-day disabled list right before the start of the season's second half with a ruptured Achilles tendon. If Johnson pitches in this series, it will be just his second time pitching against the O's at Camden Yards. He pitched 2/3 of the sixth inning last season when he was with the Athletics, giving up a two-run homer to David Lough, striking out Caleb Joseph, giving up a single to Ryan Flaherty, walking current teammate Markakis and then getting Manny Machado to fly out. He has a career 3.39 ERA at Camden Yards, but a 10.80 ERA in two appearances against the Orioles.

To wrap up the former Orioles returning with the Braves, catcher Ryan Lavarnway has found a spot in Atlanta's clubhouse as Pierzynski's backup. Since being designated for assignment by the Orioles, Lavarnway has hit .300 with a homer and two RBIs in 24 plate appearances over seven games for the Braves. He has faced the Orioles before, but this will be the first time since he left the club. He has hit .158 in 13 appearances against the Birds and .189 in his career at Camden Yards.

The last time the Braves and Orioles met, Baltimore won two out of three in Atlanta back in June 2012 with both wins coming in shutouts. The Braves haven't been to Camden Yards since 2009, when they lost two out three. Atlanta has never been swept in Baltimore, but have swept the O's in Charm City back in July 2000. Meanwhile, this year Camden Yards has seen the third most home runs behind only Yankee Stadium and Milwaukee's Miller Park. Perhaps a trip to Baltimore is exactly what the Braves need to boost some of their power numbers and cut into the 6 1/2 games that separate them and the National League East-leading Nationals.

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