Going into Monday night's interleague opener against the Washington Nationals, Orioles manager Buck Showalter had only one wish.
He needed some "length" from starting pitcher Kevin Gausman, whose ejection in his previous start — through no real fault of his own — had put a strain on the Orioles rotation that still lingered five days later.
Gausman did more than that. He pitched seven strong innings against a potent Nationals lineup, allowing two runs on five hits and striking out eight in a 6-4 victory before an announced 23,525 at Camden Yards that extended the Orioles' winning streak to five games.
"That was big,'' Showalter said. "I thought the seventh inning was probably one of the keys to the game. We were short in the 'pen. Kevin really stepped forward against a really good offensive team. Really good. Probably as tough a lineup to match up with out of your bullpen because of the way they're constructed."
It was only Gausman's second quality start of the season, but it came at a good time for the club and a good time for a young pitcher who had given up five earned runs or more in his previous three starts that weren't interrupted by a highly questionable umpiring decision.
It certainly was his best start since his first victory of the year — a six-inning performance in which he allowed just a run on five hits to the Toronto Blue Jays way back on April 13.
"I wish I would have been able to do that in my last start, but obviously some things happened,'' Gausman said. "It was just good to go out there and feel like myself, really, being able to really command the fastball and really throw it wherever I wanted tonight. Anytime I can do that and throw my secondary stuff, it's a good night for me."
Maybe it was the long layoff between significant starts after umpire Sam Holbrook ejected him after one inning in Boston for hitting Xander Bogaerts with a slow breaking ball, or maybe he just was more relaxed after the Orioles scored four times in the first inning on home runs by Joey Rickard, Mark Trumbo and Trey Mancini.
Mancini keeps going boom: When the Orioles hit those three home runs off Gio Gonzalez in the first inning, Mancini saved the best for last. He launched a ball to center field that nearly cleared both bullpens to cap the four-run rally.
Remember, this was the guy who fell into a 2-for-31 slump after getting off to a great start in April, but he obviously didn't let it bother him. He has emerged from that slump with a fury, driving in runs in each of his past six games, with two homers, two doubles and nine RBIs. He has a total of 10 hits in his past 15 at-bats and has a five-game hitting streak.
Joseph is an RBI machine: Caleb Joseph couldn't buy an RBI for more than a year, but he's barreling up the ball a lot more regularly since he ended that drought with a two-run home run at Yankee Stadium on April 29.
He had line-drive singles in each of his four at-bats and drove in the Orioles' fifth run of the game.
Joseph came into Monday night's game with a .174 batting average, but he's has hit safely in six of his past nine games and has two more run-scoring hits since that home run. Since starting the season 0-for-12, he is hitting .316 (12-for-38).
Schoop's back: Jonathan Schoop was back in the starting lineup after missing a couple games with a bruised hand, and he doubled in his second at-bat to extend his on-base streak to a career high 23 games. He had a 22-game streak last season.