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Matchup with 'King Felix' brings out best in Orioles right-hander Kevin Gausman

SEATTLE — Pitching against arguably the best pitcher in the American League on Friday night brought out the best in Orioles right-hander Kevin Gausman.

Coming off an outing Sunday in Oakland in which he allowed five runs and lasted just four innings, Gausman essentially matched Mariners ace Felix Hernandez in the Orioles’ 2-1, 10-inning win. Gausman shut out Seattle for the first five innings and allowed just one run and seven hits in 6 2/3 innings.

“I think we all feel pretty confident with him on the mound,” Orioles first baseman Chris Davis said. “He’s a guy who’s not easily intimidated. He goes out there and pitches his game. It says a lot about him and his makeup, being able to bounce back from the rough outing he had [against the Athletics]. We like what we see from him. He’s obviously learning a lot about himself and about the league. The more he pitches, the better he’s going to get.”

Facing big-name pitchers isn’t anything new for Gausman. He has pitched against Detroit’s Justin Verlander, Toronto’s Mark Buehrle and Oakland’s Sonny Gray (twice) this season.

“I feel like I face every team’s ace this year,” Gausman said. “And it’s pretty cool, pitching against [Hernandez]. I’m a fan of pitchers and good pitchers, and he's probably the best in baseball right now. The last couple years, he’s been pretty unbelievable, so I definitely knew I was going to have to have my ‘A’ game. But I think it’s definitely exciting and makes it a lot more fun for us.”

Gausman said Thursday that he has felt comfortable against left-handed hitters this year because his fastball-changeup combination allows him to keep the ball low and away from lefties. And against a Seattle lineup that had seven left-handed hitters and one switch-hitter, he looked in control, not having to strike out batters to be effective.

“They’re a pretty tough lineup and they put the ball in play a lot,” Gausman said. “They don’t really strike out that often. They only have a couple guys who really chase pitches. I had a plan coming in and I think I did a pretty good job of going off that plan and trying to find out what was going to work for me.”

Gausman now has allowed one or no runs in six of his nine starts this season and is 1-1 with a 2.86 ERA in four road starts.

-- Orioles manager Buck Showalter said he had nothing to lose by challenging a safe call at first base with two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning.

On the play, Robinson Cano hit a slow grounder in front of the mound that closer Zach Britton fielded and threw to first. Britton’s throw pulled Davis off the bag, but it was unclear whether the ball was in Davis’ glove before his foot came off first base.

Initially, first base umpire Fieldin Culbreth called Cano safe, but after the review, the call was overturned, ending the game. The hometown crowd booed for several minutes afterward while awaiting the postgame fireworks display.

“From what everybody tells me, he might have hung in there,” Showalter said of Davis. “We had nothing to lose. [Replay review coordinator Adam Gladstone] said: 'We think he might be out. Let’s take a look at it.' ”

-- With Seattle’s left-hander-heavy lineup, left-hander Brian Matusz played a significant role in Friday’s game, throwing 1 2/3 scoreless innings, retiring five of the six batters he faced and striking out the side in the eighth inning.

“We knew they were going to be real left-handed and he might have a couple extended outings,” Showalter said. “He loves that. It’s probably a little removed from the start in spring training, obviously. But he has that mentality and he has multiple pitches.”

Matusz has held left-handed hitters to a .215 average, while right-handers are batting .320 against him.

eencina@baltsun.com

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Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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