BOWIE — After a rocky Double-A debut Saturday, Orioles pitching prospect Kevin Gausman got back on track with six innings of one-run ball in Bowie's home opener Thursday night against Akron.
In front of a Baysox defense that committed three errors, the Orioles' 2012 first-round draft pick struck out five and allowed just two hits in a 5-1 victory. Gausman walked none, but he hit a batter and threw two wild pitches.
“Overall, I felt lke my stuff was probably the best it's been,” Gausman said. “My first outing [Saturday at Harrisburg], I felt like I was almost around the zone a little too much. This time, I tried to expand the zone sometimes when I was ahead in the count, and I think I did a pretty good job of that.”
In the first inning, the right-hander showed the mix of pitches that vaulted him to the No. 4 overall pick last June after two seasons at Louisiana State. His four-seam fastball sat at 95 to 97 mph with arm-side run, and he mixed in a changeup and slider that sat in the low 80s. Both secondary pitches grade as plus. Gausman showed the ability to both locate the slider for strikes and bury it late in the count for swinging strikes, while the changeup is a deceptive pitch thrown with the same arm speed as his fastball.
Gausman recorded his first strikeout of the night with two outs in the first on an elevated 97-mph fastball to Aeros designated hitter Chun Chen. Gausman worked quickly in an eight-pitch second inning, where he recorded a second swinging strikeout with his changeup and coaxed two more groundball outs.
In the third, Gausman introduced a heavy two-seam fastball that sat at 92 to 94 mph while maintaining his four-seam fastball at 95 mph and throwing his secondary pitches later in the count. Akron catcher Alex Laviskey caught up to a 2-2 fastball over the plate and slapped it to right field for the Aeros' first hit, but Gausman got out of the inning unscathed.
The tall right-hander needed 21 pitches to get through the fourth, after Bowie shortstop Garabez Rosa and first baseman Aaron Baker each mishandled soft ground balls that allowed the first two runners to reach on errors.
Gausman buckled down and fanned the next two batters, the first on a dipping 96-mph fastball and the second on a breaking ball on the outer half of the plate. Baysox manager Gary Kendall said he was impressed with Gausman's pitch selection with men on base.
“The pitches that he made are down in the strike zone,” Kendall said. “He elevated when he had to, but they're pitches where he's going to get a ground ball if they're going to move the ball.”
Akron third baseman Giovanny Urshela led off the fifth with a double down the left field line, advanced to third on a wild pitch by Gausman and scored when catcher Brian Ward threw the ball away trying to gun him down at third.
Gausman, however, kept his two-seamer down in the zone and limited the damage thereafter, generating a pair of groundouts with his slider and a blooper to escape the fifth. The only blip in Gausman's 14-pitch sixth inning was a high fastball that caught Chen on the wrist.
In his first outing for Bowie on Saturday, Gausman allowed six runs (four earned) on eight hits in four innings, though he struck out eight. With Thursday's outing, Gausman lowered his ERA to 4.50.