TORONTO — Kevin Gausman's first moments as a big league pitcher mixed a combination of rare talent with a slice of naivete needed to remind you he's just 22 and less than a year removed from being a sophomore in college.
In the first inning of his major league debut Thursday night at the Rogers Centre, Gausman baffled veteran Blue Jays hitters on back-to-back at-bats, striking out Edwin Encarnacion looking on a 97-mph inside fastball and then Adam Lind swinging on an 85-mph changeup.
Then Gausman returned to the dugout and told some teammates how loud the announced crowd of 21,466 sounded.
“They were like, ‘You know, this is kind of quiet compared to most games,'” Gausman said. “I was like ‘Wow, alright.'”
Whether Gausman's first game in an Orioles uniform lived up to the monumental hype — he left after five innings trailing by a run after throwing 89 pitches — can be debated, but there's no doubt that the Orioles unveiled something special.
As for the outcome of the Orioles' 12-6 loss to the Blue Jays? Not so much.
The Orioles (25-22) have lost seven of their last nine, and the 12 runs they allowed Thursday tied the season-high set Friday in a loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. The Orioles hit three homers, but they were all solo shots. And after making just one fielding error in their last 36 games, the Orioles had two Thursday.
“Every game's big, but we definitely have to pitch and play defense better tomorrow and hopefully that gives us a better shot to win,” said catcher Matt Wieters, who was charged with a passed ball in the eighth that snowballed a four-run inning and put the game out of reach.
Orioles pitchers allowed eight walks, and five of those runners scored.
“But it was there for us,” Showalter said. “You like your chances when you score six, but not when you walk that many people.”
Gausman (0-1) yielded a go-ahead two-run homer to Blue Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia on his second-to-last hitter of the night. And after left-hander Troy Patton issued back-to-back two-out walks in the sixth, right-hander Pedro Strop allowed a grand slam to Encarnacion to break the game wide open.
For someone who was with Double-A Bowie two nights ago thinking about his next scheduled start in Akron before the Orioles called for help to solidify their starting rotation, Gausman had the eyes of a hungry Orioles fan base fixed on his every move.
“I've been waiting my entire life for this, and I haven't been able to sleep very much lately,” said Gausman, the fifth youngest player currently on a major league roster. “So it was something that was great to get out of the way. Hopefully I can sleep tonight.”
With his locker filled with $300 worth of powdered mini doughnuts courtesy of teammate Adam Jones — and his parents and girlfriend watching from the first row behind the Orioles dugout — Gausman's outing was cut short by a rough fourth inning that tested his mettle.
Leading 3-0, Gausman allowed back-to-back doubles to Lind and Arencibia to open the inning. He faced a bases loaded jam with no outs but emerged from the inning with a one-run lead.
“Nobody goes through anything completely smooth,” Gausman said. “I felt good early on in the game. When I got [into trouble], I just tried to buckle down like I always have with guys on base. I felt good. I made some good pitches. That's a good hitting team.”
In the fifth inning, Arencibia turned a first-pitch 96-mph inside fastball with one man on to give the Jays a 4-3 lead.
“I like the way he presented himself,” Showalter said. “He gave us the chance to win and he'll learn from it. He's a smart young man and he has a presence and his presentation. I'm proud of him. I'm glad he's on our side. … I thought he handled himself the way you want young pitchers to handle themselves. He's only going to get better.”
Gausman, ranked the 26th best prospect in the game by Baseball America, relied heavily on a fastball that topped off at 99 mph several times.
Coming off a homestand in which relief pitching was an issue — relievers pitched to a 6.75 ERA in the eight games — the Orioles bullpen allowed eight runs Thursday (six earned).
Patton's back-to-back two-out walks, which included one to No. 9 hitter Munenori Kawasaki, prevented him from closing out the sixth, and Strop managed just eight strikes out of 22 pitches.
“That walk to Kawasaki in the sixth kind of put us in harm's way,” Showalter said. “We did a great job against the Yankees making them earn 90 feet and we didn't do that tonight.”
Trailing 8-4 in the eighth, Nick Markakis and Jones hit back-to-back homers to cut the lead to two and chase starter Brandon Morrow (2-3) from the game. It marked the third time this season that the Orioles have hit back-to-back homers and the second time for Markakis and Jones, who also did it April 27 in Oakland.
But the Blue Jays (20-27) tacked on four more runs in the eighth against left-hander T.J. McFarland, who had allowed one or fewer runs in eight of his 10 relief appearances.
Manny Machado drove in two runs with his second of three consecutive doubles, lacing a ball down the left-field line in the third inning to give the Orioles a 2-0 lead. Machado's three doubles not only game him his team-high 20th multi-hit game, but they extended his major league lead in doubles to 21. He's hit safely in 14 of the team's 15 road games this season.
Chris Davis gave the Orioles a 3-0 lead in the fourth when he took Morrow's first-pitch 93-mph fastball high off the right-field foul pole for his majors-leading 15th homer of the season and his second in as many games.