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Early-inning struggles foil Kevin Gausman again

Starting pitcher Kevin Gausman #39 of the Baltimore Orioles walks to the dugout after the end of the second inning against the Boston Red Sox at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on May 31, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland.
Starting pitcher Kevin Gausman #39 of the Baltimore Orioles walks to the dugout after the end of the second inning against the Boston Red Sox at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on May 31, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Rob Carr / Getty Images)

Just five pitches into Tuesday's 6-2 loss to the Boston Red Sox, Orioles right-hander Kevin Gausman already trailed by two runs after giving up back-to-back homers to open the game. Five batters into the second inning, he was licking his wounds down five runs after allowing a three-run homer to Mookie Betts, his second of the game against Gausman on a three-homer night for Betts.

Though it got ugly in a hurry for Gausman, he recovered well, allowing just two hits following Betts' second blast and getting through six innings as he retired 10 of the final 11 Red Sox batters he faced.

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"I'm impressed that he came out and gave us six there," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "Trying to stay away from a lot of guys [in the bullpen]. You'd like to. That was the good part. The first couple innings he had trouble finding his way. They hit the mistakes he made, obviously. But it's good to see him come back and compete and get through those six innings."

Gausman could take some solace in finishing strong, but it's his rocky starts that are troublesome to see.

After allowing three homers over his first his first six starts of this season, he's allowed three homers in each of his last two starts.

Five of those six homers have come in the first two innings of his outings. Over the first two innings this season, Gausman owns a 6.19 ERA, compared to a 2.17 ERA in innings three through six.

"[I was] getting behind guys, not throwing quality pitches early in the game," Gausman said. "Kind of seemed like the third inning, kind of found it, and by then it was too late. But getting in hitters counts and not throwing quality pitches."

In the first inning, Gausman left a 1-0 fastball over the plate to Betts, who sent the pitch over the center field fence. Dustin Pedroia then turned on a 1-1 fastball and sent it into the left-field seats to give the Red Sox a quick 2-0 lead.

Gausman then issued a pair of walks in the second inning to the bottom of the Boston batting order that ended up hurting him. He fell behind both No. 7 hitter Chris Young and No. 9 hitter Christian Vazquez 3-0 before walking them on five pitches.

Betts made Gausman pay for those walks, turning on a 2-0 fastball and hitting his just inside the left-field foul pole.

"It only stems from my mechanics," Gausman said. "I think I was kind of leaking a little bit early and leaving some balls that were running back over the plate. Like I said, you get in so many 2-0, 2-1 hitters counts and try to throw a strike right there, and obviously Betts is a very good player. Their whole lineup's hot right now. Like I said, I kind of figured it out later in the game, but I was just happy that the bullpen didn't have to wear it today as much."

Gausman also allowed a home run to lead off the game in his previous start in Houston when George Springer took his second pitch of the game out. He also yielded a two-run homer in that game to Luis Valbuena, a blast that came immediately after a five-pitch walk, causing the Orioles to fall behind 3-1 in an eventual 4-2 loss.

"It's frustrating definitely," Gausman said of falling behind early. "You just try to take it pitch by pitch after that. The biggest thing is just trying to stay in there as long as you can and give your team a chance to win. Just take it pitch by pitch, try to get groundballs and quick outs."

eencina@baltsun.com
twitter.com/EddieInTheYard

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