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Orioles' Kevin Gausman admits to 'scuffling along' after another rough start

Orioles' Kevin Gausman admits to 'scuffling along' after another rough start
Baltimore, Md.--4/23/17-- Orioles starter Kevin Gausman gets ready to toss his chewing gum after retiring the Red Sox in the second inning. The Red Sox defeated the Orioles by score of 6 to 2 to avoid a series sweep at Oriole Park at Camden Yard (Kenneth K. Lam / Baltimore Sun)

Who would have thought Kevin Gausman would be the problem?

The 26-year-old right-hander entered the season toeing the chalk line between good and great, with his ascendant end to 2016 meaning the only certainty the Orioles could count on in their rotation this year would be a full year of that success.

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If Gausman reaches that level again this year, it will be in spite of, and not because of his puzzling struggles this month, which continued Sunday with a loss to Boston that was over four batters in.

"Not very good," he said of his April. "Pretty frustrating, especially being the guy who they gave the ball to Opening Day. It seems like everybody else is really throwing the crap out of the ball, really well right now. And I'm kind of scuffling along. I'll figure it out. It'll take maybe another bullpen, and hopefully I'll come out next start and hit the ground running. But obviously, my first five starts are not very good."

The crux of the issue in Sunday's start was the bad beginning. He had allowed one home run while facing 93 batters in his first three starts, then added two to that tally within four batters. Xander Bogaerts and Andrew Benintendi had both singled before Mookie Betts remembered his signature move at Camden Yards is to hit a home run, and promptly did that on a knee-high fastball. He hung a slider over the plate to Hanley Ramirez on the next pitch, which went for another homer.

"That's bad execution right out of the gate," Gausman said.

After that, it settled down a bit, with Gausman re-discovering his split-fingered fastball and using it to get out of the first inning and into the sixth.

First baseman Mitch Moreland added a third home run to center field in the fifth inning on a ball that center fielder Adam Jones gamely tried to scale the fence for, but missed. Boston mustered four more hits in his time on the mound, and he struck out four while walking three and allowing just the run on Moreland's bomb.

But it was another start in a series of them where Gausman, statistically, was anything but the team's top starter. He's struck out 17 and walked 15 in 24 innings over five starts, and allowed 34 hits in that span. His ERA climbed to 7.50 Sunday.

Manager Buck Showalter said it was "a little better" than before, but the early damage was the difference.

"He wasn't very crisp early and they made him pay for it," Showalter said. "You get a flare to right, broken bat and ground ball single. First and third and he makes a couple mistakes to some good hitters and we're down 4-0 before you know it. But I like the fact he didn't implode and got us to the sixth inning and competed like we know Kevin can. There will be better days for him."

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