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His stat line might not have shown it – and the score definitely didn't – but Orioles right-hander Kevin Gausman might have given one of his best performances of the season in Friday night's 2-0 loss to the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park.

Gausman was the tough-luck loser, much like his rotationmate Dylan Bundy was three days ago in a 2-0 home loss to the Minnesota Twins. But the only two runs he allowed on the night were on solo homers by Jake Marisnick and Carlos Beltran.

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Gausman allowed eight hits, a total that didn't seem like that many when watching it, and it didn't feel the same as the 10 hits he allowed in his previous start against the Toronto Blue Jays.

After owning a 7.55 ERA over his first seven starts of the season, Gausman has quality starts in three of his past four outings. He went into Friday's start saying he was still looking "to put it all together," and despite the loss, he took another step toward doing that.

"It all kind of stemmed from fastball command," Gausman said. "I say it every time after every start, but when I feel like I can throw the ball where I want to, those are the games where I'm going to go deep in the game. You get quick outs, get pop flies and ground balls."

Despite a third inning in which Gausman needed 33 pitches – running his pitch total to 60 – he was able to last 6 2/3 innings.

"That third inning, just try to minimize," Gausman said. "Gave up the solo home run [to Marisnick] and get some guys on base. Kind of had some freak things that happened in that inning, but like I said, just try to minimize."

He did so by relying on his fastball, which he threw 78.5 percent of the time (84 fastballs out of 107 pitches), and when Gausman is doing that, it's a good sign. It means he's trusting the location of his fastball, which he hasn't been able to do at times this season.

"My fastball was staying true tonight," Gausman said. "It wasn't coming back to the middle of the plate like it was earlier in the season. I felt really good my last couple starts with that pitch specifically, so I'm definitely on the right track and just kind of try to keep the ball rolling."

But it was what Gausman was able to do after the third that was most important, throwing strikes to get quick outs and quick innings despite allowing at least one base runner in each frame.

Over his last four innings, Gausman threw 66 percent strikes, staying ahead of Astros hitters and getting quick outs, especially in a 10-pitch fourth inning that set the tone after the long third.

"Yeah, I had a real good feel for my slider," Gausman said. "Really, the worst one I threw tonight got hit for a home run. That's a good sign. I know my stuff's really good when I'm getting a lot of foul balls. That's one thing that throughout my whole career, when I'm on, guys are fouling it off. Unfortunately, it kind of gets me into deep counts. That's one thing for me; I know I'm on the right track, so definitely took the right step forward tonight and go get them tomorrow."

eencina@baltsun.com
twitter.com/EddieInTheYard

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