Orioles-Braves Preview

The Associated Press

The Baltimore Orioles could move back on top of the AL East standings Friday night.

Atlanta Braves right-hander Tommy Hanson has always come out ahead when he's faced teams from that division.

Baltimore goes for a season-best sixth consecutive victory in Friday's series opener at Turner Field, while Hanson tries to help the Braves avoid a fifth straight defeat.

One-half game behind the East-leading New York Yankees, the Orioles (37-26) begin their six-game interleague trip on the heels of a three-game sweep over Pittsburgh.

Steve Pearce homered and had a career-best five RBIs while Matt Wieters had four hits and also drove in five as Baltimore set season highs in hits (16) and runs in Thursday's 12-6 victory.

It was the second time the Orioles had two players with at least five RBIs, with the other coming June 13, 1999, when Cal Ripken (6) and Will Clark (5) led a 22-1 victory over Atlanta.

"As of late the bats have started to heat up and the pitching has still been there," Chris Davis said of the Orioles, who are batting .316 with 7.6 runs per game since their last loss. "It's kind of the offense's turn to pull their weight.''

The Orioles, who last won six straight Aug. 22-28, will also try to extend their five-game interleague winning streak as they face Atlanta (34-29) for the first time since dropping two of three at Turner Field from July 1-3.

The Braves, winners of 11 of 15 at home in this series, continue their nine-game homestand after getting swept by the Yankees.

Atlanta has scored 10 times during its skid after averaging 5.5 runs during a six-game winning streak June 3-9.

"We're not playing bad," catcher Brian McCann told the Braves' official website following Wednesday's 3-2 loss. "We're pitching great - we've been in every ballgame."

Giving the ball to Hanson (7-4, 3.55 ERA) could help the Braves avoid their first five-game home skid since a six-game stretch to end 2009.

Hanson has struck out 10 and walked one while winning his last two starts.

"Tommy has been great," second baseman Dan Uggla said after Hanson went a season-high eight innings in Saturday's 5-2 victory over Toronto. "... He was on his game today, that's for sure."

That's been the case in Hanson's career against the AL East, as he's posted a 1.38 ERA while winning all six starts. He walked a career-high five and gave up nine hits in his only start versus Baltimore, but allowed only two runs over 5 2-3 innings in a 7-2 win at Camden Yards on June 12, 2009.

Brian Matusz (5-6, 4.82) will face the Braves for the first time after his scheduled Wednesday start was pushed back when a ball ricocheted off his bat and hit him in the nose Tuesday during bunting practice.

"I should be fine for Friday," Matusz told the Orioles' official website Wednesday.

The left-hander was far from fine June 7, when he walked a career high-tying five and was tagged for five runs in two-plus innings of a 7-0 loss at Boston.

"It's hopefully a one-game setback," manager Buck Showalter said of Matusz, who was 4-1 with a 2.87 ERA in his previous five outings.

Matusz, though, is 0-5 with a 7.49 ERA in six interleague starts - allowing 11 homers in 33 2-3 innings.

Braves center fielder Michael Bourn is batting .393 (22 for 56) during a team-best 13-game hitting streak.

Orioles third baseman Mark Reynolds, who had four hits and a home run Thursday, hit three homers last season in Atlanta. He's 1 for 8 with five strikeouts against Hanson.