Orioles right-hander Kevin Gausman was ready for his shining moment Sunday, and there wasn’t a better place for it than Yankee Stadium.
For at least two weeks, Orioles manager Buck Showalter had scripted out his starting rotation to have Gausman pitch Sunday’s regular-season finale against the New York Yankees. If the game had any sort of postseason ramifications, he wanted Gausman, who has had remarkable success against the Yankees over his career, to have the ball in his right hand.
Gausman did his part to pitch the Orioles into the American League wild-card game, holding the Yankees to two runs on eight hits over 7 1/3 innings in the Orioles’ 5-2 win. Gausman improved to 9-12 overall, with a 3.61 ERA.
“I was locked in knowing what this game meant,” Gausman said. “I was going to make sure every pitch I threw wasn’t going to be too good” to hit.
Gausman’s only real mistake was an 0-1, 95-mph fastball to Yankees catcher Brian McCann in the fourth inning that landed in the right-field stands, McCann’s 20th homer. Gausman was charged with another run after Didi Gregorius singled off closer Zach Britton in the eighth.
Gausman praised the defense behind him, and the Orioles got a few favorable hops, too, like when a grounder up the middle hit off the second base bag with two outs in the sixth and to shortstop J.J. Hardy, who ended the frame there.
“I can’t say enough about our defense today,” Gausman said. “It was ridiculous. … When that [bounce to Hardy] happens, I kind of knew it was going to be a good day.”
Gausman finished the season 3-1 with a 1.10 ERA in six starts against the Yankees and became just the second pitcher since 2008 to throw at least 40 innings against New York in a single season. Roy Halladay of the Toronto Blue Jays did that in 2008 and 2009.
Gausman’s spectacular finish to the season was one of the reasons the Orioles were in position to make the postseason. Over his past eight starts, in which the Orioles went 5-3, Gausman has a 2.39 ERA. He’s allowed two runs or fewer in 10 of his past 14 starts this season.
“The guys who want the ball, as a manager, you want to give it to them,” Showalter said of Gausman. “He’s had that body language of [being] ‘that guy.’ I say all the time to the minor league guys and scouts, does he have ‘it’? Does he have ‘it’? And they all know what we’re talking about. He’s graduated to the right part of the process, and he’s been fun to watch. We needed him today, and he delivered.”
Britton records multiple-inning relief: Despite not earning a save — he entered the game with the Orioles up 5-1 — Britton recorded the final five outs of the game. He allowed Gregorius to score in the eighth but made quick work of the Yankees in the ninth, sandwiching strikeouts of Ronald Torreyes and Brett Gardner around a groundout by Billy Butler.
“It was pretty cool,” Britton said. “I’m disappointed I couldn’t save that run there for Gausy. He deserved a better fate than that. So I was pretty disappointed in that. I got a little bit ahead of myself there. But as a whole, I’m pretty happy with it, but I’ll be even happier if we get deep into the postseason.”
Britton ended the regular season a perfect 47-for-47 in save opportunities and has the third-longest save streak to open a season.
Teixeira honored: Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira (Mount Saint Joseph), a Severna Park native playing his last major league game Sunday received a standing ovation from the announced 33,277 when he was removed from the game in the top of the seventh.
As Teixeira walked off the field, Orioles players and coaches, including Showalter, Teixeira’s first major league manager in Texas, stood at the dugout railing and applauded.
Before the game, Teixeira was presented with a framed Yankees jersey and a Yankee Stadium first base by Gardner and CC Sabathia.
Teixeira is one of nine players to record 400 homers and win five Gold Gloves. He is also one of five switch-hitters to reach the 400-homer mark, and his 10 seasons of 25 or more homers are tied for second most among switch hitters, trailing only former Oriole Eddie Murray’s 12 seasons.