Despite the way Orioles right-hander Kevin Gausman labored throughout the afternoon Sunday – constantly going deep into counts – his performance against the New York Yankees was exactly what the floundering Orioles starting rotation needed.
It wasn’t pretty at times, but it was effective, and Gausman’s six-inning, one-run outing in the Orioles’ 3-1 win over the Yankees was the team’s first quality start in six games. After a rocky turn through the rotation, Gausman served as the stopper.
Each member of the rotation took his turn struggling, posting a collective 10.06 ERA over that time. In the five games leading up to Sunday, Orioles starters averaged just 4 2/3 innings per outing.
Gausman rebounded from his worst start of the year – he allowed a season-high five runs over six innings, including three homers, in a 6-2 loss to the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday – with one of his most resilient performances of the season.
“I would have said that win, lose or draw, [if] a guy gave us six innings of one-run ball, [I’ll] take that every night,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.
Had Gausman not been able to go deep Sunday, it might have forced Showalter to use right-hander Mike Wright in long relief. Now, Wright will start tonight's series-opener against Kansas City.
Gausman left Sunday's game trailing 1-0, but the Orioles rallied for three runs in the eighth off Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman to win.
“Yeah, you just try to give your team a chance to win,” Gausman said. “You give these guys an opportunity late in the game they are gonna, more often than not, they are going to come up for you and put some good at-bats.”
Just how Gausman got through six innings was remarkable in its own right. Despite throwing 18 of 27 first-pitch strikes – including opening strikes to the first 10 hitters he faced – Gausman battled through several deep counts.
Gausman averaged nearly four pitches per batter (3.96) and nearly half the batters he faced (12 of 27) saw at least four pitches, with three of them seeing seven or more.
He overcame a 21-pitch first inning and a 25-pitch fourth inning, and needed just 24 pitches to get through the fifth and sixth innings combined to get a quality start.
“Yeah, you just try to get guys out especially in 3-1, 2-1 counts,” Gausman said. “I felt like I was in a lot of 3-1, 2-1 counts and I think I only walked two guys so that was good, but I had a good feel for my circle changeup tonight and that kind of got me out of a lot of jams and threw some great curveballs when I needed to.”
He allowed nine baserunners, but was aided by some instinctual defensive plays. In the fourth inning, the Orioles prevented a run when first baseman Chris Davis charged a grounder with the bases loaded and threw home on the run to get a force out at the plate. After allowing a leadoff double in the fifth to Brett Gardner, Gausman made a nice play coming on the right side of the mound to retire Gardner at third.
Gausman’s two best performances this season have come against the Yankees. He has a 0.64 ERA – one earned run in 14 innings – in two starts against the Yankees. He’s also had great success against left-handed hitters, holding them to a .200 batting average (17-for-85) on the season.
“You got to do some things. You got to move the ball in, you got to move the ball away,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said about facing the Yankees. “They got, two or three players that are going to the Hall of Fame. You just can’t sit there. It’s tough. It’s a tough lineup to go through, especially with [Brian] McCann back out there. … If he wasn't attacking them the way he was, he may not have made it six innings. He can go six innings and give up six runs and have 80 pitches. I’ll take that and the finished product.”