Unlike the past few seasons, the Orioles can no longer be taken for granted they are going to lose. Baltimore is just three games below .500 at home and has won 10 of its past 14 interleague games.
The Orioles are in a good spot to upset the Braves. Cole Hamels will be making his first start of the year for Atlanta. He'll be limited to 55-60 pitches. The Braves' bullpen carries a heavy fatigue rating having worked 10 1/3 innings the past two days.
Hamels has made four career starts at hitter-friendly Camden Yards. The results aren't pretty - 1-3 record, 7.99 ERA and a 1.56 WHIP. Even if he isn't sharp, the Braves probably want to get at least four innings out of him.
"I know this is kind of my spring training," Hamels was quoted as saying.
The Orioles are going with rookie southpaw Keegan Akin. The Braves have below average statistics versus lefthanded pitching.
Akin pitched poorly in his last start, which came last Friday on the road against the Yankees. He gave up four runs on three hits in only two-thirds of an inning. However, in his two starts before that one, Akin held the Yankees and Blue Jays to a combined no runs in 8 2/3 innings with 14 strikeouts.
This will be just Akin's sixth big league appearance. My handicap is based upon the Orioles' favorable situation drawing Hamels in his season debut - yet the Braves still laying a huge price against a competitive Orioles team.
Akin is the wild card here. So to feel more secure, I'm taking 1 1/2 runs on the run line.
Baltimore would be 9-4 the past 13 times if given 1 1/2 runs.