The Orioles right-hander has had his way with the Yankees in his past two starts, and on Saturday night at Camden Yards held New York to just two singles through six scoreless innings in a 2-0 Orioles win in front of an announced crowd of 30,855.
The win gave the Orioles (74-61) their first series win against a division opponent since their first series after the All-Star break after five straight series losses against American League East rivals. It also pulled them within two games of the division-leading Toronto Blue Jays, who lost Saturday.
The Orioles maintained their dominance of the Yankees at home, winning their 20th game in 26 meetings between the teams at Camden Yards since the beginning of the 2014 season. The Orioles also became the first team since the 1973 Chicago White Sox to shut out the Yankees in three straight meetings.
“You score two runs in the American League East, more often than not you're not going to win that game,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “So the pitching was the key. … Very quietly these guys have grinded out the things that they're good at. That's why we've got a chance here in September.”
Gausman struck out eight on the night, five of those strikeouts coming with Yankees hitters flailing at his mid-80s splitter. But Gausman’s entire arsenal was working Saturday. The 25-year-old mixed his fastball with his slider and splitter as he struck out the first four batters he faced and had six strikeouts before completing the third inning.
“Just trying to mix in all my pitches and keep them off balance,” Gausman said. “I think a lot of their guys are obviously looking for a fastball against me, so if I can throw my off-speed pitches for strikes, and kind of put that thought in the back of their minds, I can have success. I don’t know what it is. Tonight it was just kind of more about our defense. We made some unreal plays behind me.”
Saturday’s performance came after Gausman pitched seven scoreless innings in a 5-0 win last Sunday at Yankee Stadium that prevented the Orioles from being swept in the Bronx. Over his past two starts against the Yankees (69-65), Gausman has thrown 13 scoreless innings, striking out 17 with just two walks. In five starts against the Yankees this season — all of them quality starts — Gausman owns a 0.80 ERA.
“Kevin’s a good pitcher,” Showalter said. “He’s had a great look in his eye for about a month, not that he hasn’t before. It’s just there’s a real driven look and presence about him. Felt like he’s really kind of hit his stride. He’s been solid for us for a while. He’s in a good place in the process, so to speak.”
Gausman (7-10) won for the fourth straight start, lowering his season ERA to 3.58.
“I’ve just been a little bit frustrated, until about a month ago, with how my season’s been going,” Gausman said. “I felt like I was pitching great and things just didn’t go my way. Now it’s kind of on the other side, the other flip side of it. Like I said, I’m just confident, feeling good. I think this is the first time I’ve got into August and September and felt this good physically with this amount of innings under my belt. I think that also has something to do with it, too.”
Gausman hasn’t allowed a run over his past three starts spanning 19 innings, taking a major step forward since the team’s top starter, right-hander Chris Tillman, went on the disabled list with a shoulder injury last month.
“We all want to step up,” Gausman said. “We all want to be that ace, and if you don’t, I don’t know what your goal is then. We’re all trying to go out and throw shutouts every night we go out there. Every time I take the mound I’m thinking of throwing a complete game. You just kind of have to have that attitude, especially with Tilly being down, we know we have one less guy that’s going to be a big innings-eater for us and has been for a lot of years. So we know we have to step up and compete, especially this time of the year.”
Gausman could have gone deeper Saturday had it not been for a 30-pitch fourth inning in which he stranded the bases loaded. He filled the bases with one out, but struck out Starlin Castro and induced a flyout from Brian McCann to escape the inning.
Gausman was at 101 pitches through five innings, but Showalter sent him back out for the sixth and the right-hander rewarded that faith. He needed only eight pitches to retire the Yankees in order and walk off the field to a standing ovation.
The Orioles stranded nine base runners on the night, including five in scoring position, but didn’t need much offense to back Gausman. The Orioles scored their first run in the fourth when Mark Trumbo scored on Chris Davis’ broken-bat bloop single to right and Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge’s ensuing misplay on the hit.
The Orioles bullpen pitched three scoreless innings in relief of Gausman, with Mychal Givens and Brad Brach each tossing a clean frame before closer Zach Britton notched his 40th save in as many chances this season.
Machado rewarded after review
Third baseman Manny Machado added another dazzling play to his defensive highlight reel, snagging Brett Gardner’s grounder down the line on the run in the fifth and while stepping into foul ground throwing across his body to first.
“There's a lot of good third basemen in the league, [but] nobody makes that play -- the arm strength, the throw, to have that type of velocity across the diamond and throwing on the move," Showalter said. "… I do not take it for granted. None of his teammates do. None of us do. It's a huge play. We did a lot of good things defensively.
The speedy Gardner was initially ruled safe, but the call was reversed following an Orioles challenge. The review was just 38 seconds, showing that Machado’s throw reached Davis, who went into full extension to reach for the ball, beat Gardner’s foot to the bag.
“I hear guys say, ‘What about this guy? What about that guy?’” Showalter said. “Yup, he’s really good. He’s not as good as Manny.”
Jones making presence felt
Jones had his second straight two-hit game since returning from injury, following up his two-hit game Friday, when his two-out RBI single opened the doors for a six-run second inning in an 8-0 win over the Yankees.
Jones followed his leadoff single in the third Saturday by jumping on a 1-1 letters-high fastball from Sabathia and sending it into the left-field stands in the fifth, reaching the 25-homer mark for the sixth straight seasons.
“Just thank the Lord that I’ve been able to stay healthy,” Jones said. “That’s the biggest thing. I believe if I’m healthy and I’m on the field, something’s going to happen, and just been fortunate enough to have great teammates to push me every day. Lord willing, it continues to maintain my health to where I can go out there and play a lot of games each season and do something.”
Jones is 10-for-23 over his past six games and has hit safely in 10 of his past 12 games.
Showalter moves up wins list
Saturday’s win marked Showalter’s 1,414th career victory, passing Miller Huggins for 25th place on the all-time major league managerial wins list.
Huggins’ 17-year managerial career was most remembered for skippering the 1927 Yankees, who are commonly regarded as one of the best teams in baseball history.
“It means I'm old,” Showalter said of the milestone. “If you pass somebody, the teams you've been allowed to manage allow you to. And [if] you've played in fields that were named after those guys, you know how old you are. It feels like I’ve played on two or three Miller Huggins fields."