BOSTON -- Orioles manager Buck Showalter said it during spring training – that he foresaw rookie right-hander Kevin Gausman pitching meaningful innings in September.
And there weren’t much more meaningful innings than the two perfect relief ones that the 22-year-old right-hander threw Wednesday night in the Orioles’ 5-3 win over the Red Sox.
In the win, which put the Orioles just one game out of the second AL wild-card spot, the O's bullpen threw 6 1/3 scoreless innings throughout a tie game.
Gausman, whose future is undoubtedly as a starter, worked back-to-back nights for the second time since he returned to the Orioles from Triple-A Norfolk to bolster the bullpen with his power arm.
He faced six batters in the seventh and eighth, striking out five -- a dominating performance for any pitcher, let alone one who was playing collegiately at LSU last year.
“I think Gaus, this time of year, [his] stuff plays,” Showalter said. “He’s pitched in front of some big venues. I know its LSU, but until you go to an SEC game on Friday night, it rivals. ... He’s pitched with high expectations a lot in his career.”
With the Orioles needing a win to help their postseason hopes, Gausman had his most dominating outing of the season.
He used his array of pitches to strike out four straight batters in the heart of the Boston batting order. He blew David Ortiz away with a fastball that registered 99 mph on the stadium radar gun, then he struck out Mike Napoli on an 87-mph slider and set down Mike Carp on an 84-mph splitter before striking out Daniel Nava on a 98-mph fastball.
“To be honest, I just tried to go out there and throw strikes,” Gausman said. “It’s something that I’ve really focused on more than anything coming out of the pen. You can’t walk guys, especially in a tight game like tonight. I’m still kind of getting used to throwing out of the bullpen, but I felt comfortable out there.”
With Darren O’Day having pitched just twice over the past three weeks while dealing with a pinched nerve that has caused tingling and numbness in his fingers, Gausman has taken some of O’Day’s late-game innings.
“Yeah, I think a big reason why is because we really have a hole out there and that’s Darren,” Gausman said. “We kind of need someone to step up and I’ve been that guy the last two nights. [Showalter has] got a lot of confidence in me and I’m just trying to continue to pitch well and let that confidence grow in me.”
Showalter has been meticulous in plotting out Gausman’s development. Before the year began, the organization decided an innings limit for Gausman in his first full pro season. When he struggled as a starter in his first time up in the big leagues, Gausman built innings out of the bullpen and confidence followed.
And now he’s pitching in the club’s most pivotal scenarios.
"To be honest, [the adrenaline] has kind of backed off a lot,” Gausman said. “I feel like I’ve finally zoned in and I’m not really paying attention to it. I just try to go out there and throw strikes and pound the zone."