WASHINGTON -- After Kevin Gausman's indoctrination into the big leagues hit a thoroughly rough patch Tuesday night against the Washington Nationals, Orioles manager Buck Showalter was definitive in saying that the heralded right-hander will remain in the Orioles starting rotation.
Gausman was shelled for seven runs over four innings in a 9-3 loss at Nationals Park, but Showalter said that the 22-year-old will make his next scheduled start Sunday against a Detroit Tigers team that leads the majors in batting average (.284) and runs per game (5.4).
“Pitching in the big leagues is hard,” Showalter said. “And he's got the talent to do it and eventually he will. And I look forward to it being next time out. He knows mistakes get magnified here. But it's part of the process.”
After an 81-minute rain delay, the Nationals hit four homers off Orioles pitching, including three off Gausman, equaling the number of homers he yielded in eight starts over 46 1/3 innings at Double-A Bowie this season.
His trial-by-fire indoctrination into the big leagues has offered its share of lessons, including that mid-90s fastballs can be hit far against major league hitters.
“It's definitely something I've noticed,” Gausman said. “I've only had two starts, and all the pitches that I leave up are the ones that get hit pretty far and pretty hard. That's something I've got to keep working at and try to get back to what I've been doing the entire season when I was in Bowie. Just get better.”
Albeit at a much different level, Gausman struggled with the same problem in his first two started this season in Double-A. He quickly made the adjustment there.
“I definitely had to change some things there, and I'll have to change some things here now,” Gausman said. “And just kind of try to get back to what I do and the type of pitcher I am. I'm a low fastball ground-ball pitcher, and so I've got to be able to get ahead in the counts and throw my secondary pitches for strikes more effectively.”
Gausman's changeup, a pitch that the Orioles believe will play at the major league level, wasn't effective Tuesday. And two of the Nationals' three homers came off mid-90s fastballs up in the zone.
“This much elevation on a fastball is the difference,” Showalter said. “When he got it down a few times, there were not very good swings off him. ... The changeup wasn't as good as it's going to be for him. He'll get these two games under his belt, and smart guys and competitive people like he is, they sit back and take it in. And he'll get better. He'll get better.”
It marked the fifth time in the past six games that an Orioles starting pitcher has failed to go at least six innings.
Gausman (0-2) relied on his fastball in his debut, and the Nationals seemed ready for it coming into Tuesday. Of the nine baserunners Gausman allowed, seven of them scored, the daggers coming in the bottom of the fourth on back-to-back solo homers by light-hitting Tyler Moore and Roger Bernadina.
In Gausman's two big league starts, opposing hitters are batting .385 against him. He's allowed 11 earned runs in nine innings and has yielded four homers.
On Tuesday, Gausman fell behind 3-0 after just four batters when Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche took a 96-mph fastball into the first rows of the stands in right-center.
Trailing 3-1, the Orioles (28-24) tied the game in the fourth on solo homers by Chris Davis and J.J. Hardy. On a 1-2 count, Davis lined a 95-mph fastball into the Nationals bullpen beyond the right-field fence for his majors-leading 17th homer of the season. Davis has homered in four of his past seven games and six of his past 11.
But in the fourth, Gausman issued a leadoff walk to LaRoche. Two batters later, Gausman hung a 0-2 slider that Moore took into the Orioles bullpen in left for his second homer of the season. Bernandina followed with his first home run since Sept. 28 on a 97-mph fastball to give the Nationals a 6-3 lead.
“I think I didn't throw a pitcher's pitch in both those situations,” Gausman said. “Right there I've got to be better and I've got to hit my spot, not only hit my spot but make more of a pitcher's pitch. Both those pitches were a little too good.”
Moore and Bernadina went into those at-bats hitting a combined .136.
When Gausman walked off the field in the fourth — he would be pinch hit for in the fifth — Orioles right-hander Jason Hammel tried to encourage him in the dugout. Hammel allowed 10 earned runs in his first two starts over 8 1/3 innings as a rookie with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2006.
“I just asked him, ‘Did things kind of speed up on you a little bit?'” Hammel said. “That's just the nature of the beast, how a competitive guy really wants to rise to the challenge and really start pushing harder. And in that situation, you've just got to kind of step back and slow things down. It's his second start in the big leagues, things like that are going to happen. I just tried to let him know things are going to be fine. His stuff plays at this level.”
Said catcher Matt Wieters: “This team, we're going to treat him just like everybody else and try and find a way to make him the best he can be, and the team the best it can be. There's going to be learning curve whether you're 21 or 39. There's going to be a learning curve.”
The Nationals promoted right-hander Nate Karns from Double-A Harrisburg to make his major league debut Tuesday. Karns lasted just 4 1/3 innings, but the Nationals bullpen tossed 4 2/3 scoreless innings of relief.