ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- After recording back-to-back outings of seven or more innings for the first time in his career on Saturday afternoon, Orioles right-hander Kevin Gausman was proud he was able to get that deep in the game despite walking four batters.
"That's pretty rare if you can walk that many guys and get away with it," Gausman said. "More than anything, that's what I was happy about, that I just kept my pitch count down other than those couple of at-bats that kind of got away from me.
"Other than that, I felt like I was getting ahead of hitters pretty well, and I think it's always good when you can get 100 pitches in back-to-back starts as a young guy. I think that's good, and I think it kind of builds that arm strength. Later on in the season, you're used to it, and you feel good."
If the rotation stays in line, Gausman will have four more starts in the regular season, and the Orioles have definitely let him loose in the second half after limiting him to five innings or 75 pitches in the first two months.
"It's frustrating, but looking back, I think it was pretty smart on their part to do that," Gausman said. "Who knows if it paid off or not. Nobody knows. I feel like it has and you never know. I might be hurt right now if they would have just let me go. I might already be done or shut down. Who knows. I'm just happy that I'm pitching here in September and hopefully pitching in October and November."
As for the role Gausman might play in the postseason, that's unclear. But he could be a starter or a weapon out of the bullpen, where he built confidence last season and became a key reliever in the final weeks.
"I feel like I was able to learn how to do it last year, so it won't be anything too crazy for me to go out there," Gausman said. "I'm beyond fine with doing that. I just want to pitch. Whatever role it is, if they tell me, 'Hey, you're going to throw the fourth inning, you've got this one hitter, this lefty, and throw all split changes to him,' anything like that. I'm just happy to be here and on this team."
Hardy sits again with lower back spasms
Shortstop J.J. Hardy said Sunday that he hoped another day off would alleviate his nagging lower back spasms once and for all.
Hardy sat out his second straight game Sunday — and his third game this week — with a flare-up of the back spasms that cost him nearly a week of playing time in April.
"The spasms, it's weird," Hardy said. "When they come up, it's basically it's like they're telling me something's wrong and be careful. The first game here, I felt a few spasms, and it was kind of a grind the first night. But it didn't lock up on me like it did in April where I had to miss a week.
"That's what we're trying to avoid. I think we're getting ahead of it, so I feel pretty good with where we're at, and hopefully I'll play tomorrow for sure."
Hardy said he could have played Sunday, and Showalter said Hardy likely would have started if the Orioles were playing anywhere else than on the turf.
Hardy left Monday's game and missed Tuesday's game with spasms, but he said he didn't feel them again until after batting practice Friday before the Orioles' first game here in Tampa Bay.
"I played, what, a couple games [since]?" Hardy said. "I didn't feel it those last two days against Cincinnati and everything went well here, so I thought it was in the past. I felt it spasm up again after BP, and I played through the game with some [discomfort]. I feel like we're ahead of it and that we've dodged a bullet in a way."
Both Hardy and Showalter said they expected the shortstop to be back in the lineup Monday.
Around the horn
The Orioles won the season series against Tampa Bay, 12 games to seven. The all-time series is now tied, 148-148. … They have won nine of their last 12 series finales. … Nelson Cruz's 39 home runs are the second-most in franchise history by a right-handed hitter, trailing only Frank Robinson's 49 homers during his Triple Crown season in 1966. Mark Reynolds (2011) and Albert Belle (1999) hit 37. … After hitting Logan Forsythe in the third inning Sunday, right-hander Bud Norris is tied for the American League lead with 14 hit batters. … Right-hander Miguel Gonzalez, who is scheduled to start Monday's series opener in Boston, is 3-0 with a 2.61 ERA in five career games (four starts) against the Red Sox and is 1-0 with a 1.93 ERA in four appearances (two starts) at Fenway Park. He allowed two runs and seven hits in eight innings in his last start in Boston on July 5.