1. Surprise of the season. The Orioles open a weekend series against former teammate Nick Markakis and the upstart Atlanta Braves, one of the biggest surprises in baseball this season. The Braves have won six of eight to open a three-game lead over the Nationals in the National League East with the midway point fast approaching. They’ve done it with the NL’s highest-scoring offense and the eighth-best pitching staff in baseball. Markakis has been one of the catalysts with a .323 average that ranks seventh in the majors and an .866 OPS.
2. Cobb. Alex Cobb has sunk back into a homer-driven slump his past two starts, allowing 14 runs and four homers in 10 2/3 innings. Before that, he had only twice allowed two homers in a game over his first 10 starts.
3. Davis returns. Chris Davis is back in the starting lineup for the first time since June 11 after hitting the bench to deal with his struggles. Davis is batting .150/.227/.227 this season and is hitting seventh against lefty Sean Newcomb, one of the Braves’ best pitchers. Newcomb has pitched nine quality starts in 14 outings.