But with admittedly little command of his breaking ball and split-fingered fastball, the right-hander couldn’t stifle an aggressive Chicago Cubs lineup in Friday’s 9-8 loss at Camden Yards.
En route to allowing eight runs in three innings, Gausman (5-7, 6.39 ERA) said he became a “two-pitch pitcher.” He relied mainly on his fastball and curveball, which the defending World Series champions hammered for four home runs.
“When you’re a starting pitcher, and they’re just looking for two pitches,” Gausman said, “they can pretty much just kind of sit and wait for their pitch.”
Gausman had had a week off since his last start, a four-inning, nine-hit, five-earned-run outing in a loss to the Minnesota Twins.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter said that through the first few frames of that game, Gausman appeared to follow the rhythm of his previous two appearances, when he combined for 12 1/3 scoreless innings.
But he faltered late in that start, and Showalter said the right-hander’s lack of command continued through his extended break.
“He was missing,” Showalter said. “Kept waiting for him to get on the horse a little bit, and he never got on. That was tough. You hate to see anybody struggle like that. … Kept waiting for him to hit his stride there, but never did.”
The Cubs capitalized early.
After a leadoff double and one-out single, Cubs catcher Willson Contreras blasted a three-run home run. Designated hitter Kyle Schwarber hit a first-pitch solo shot to almost the same spot in left-center field in the next at-bat.
In the second inning, shortstop Addison Russell had a one-out double before left fielder Ben Zobrist took a 1-1 pitch to right-center for a 6-0 lead.
Right fielder Jason Heyward then capitalized on Gausman’s two-out walk in the third inning with a home run to Eutaw Street, the 92nd blast to reach the right-field landmark.
The Orioles bullpen buckled down after Gausman’s exit, giving five consecutive scoreless innings, and the offense managed to tie the game at 8 on Mark Trumbo’s two-run homer in the eighth inning.
But a final Cubs home run — Russell crushed a line drive to center field off reliever Brad Brach in the ninth — was the deciding blow in Gausman’s shortest outing since he was ejected during the second inning of a May 3 loss to the Boston Red Sox.
“It’s frustrating,” Gausman said. “Obviously, I wanted to come out here and hit the ground running going into the second half. It was just bad. … When you’re a starter trying to [work with two pitches], some days, you can get away with it, and most days, you can’t, so it was just bad execution.”