From a distance, it looks as if Kevin Gausman has had a bad season.
With a 3-6 record, the Orioles right-hander appears to be singing the same woeful tune as the rest of the rotation. His last win came May 11, in a 9-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.
But under a closer lens, Gausman (4.20 ERA) is 50/50 on the mound with minimal run support behind him. Half of his starts have been quality, corralling batters to five hits or fewer seven times. With 88 strikeouts in 94 1/3 innings, his command is far from wild.
Take a look at his last start, and the problems are clear. Gausman held the Seattle Mariners to five hits and a run over six innings in what ended up becoming a no decision, his seventh of the season in only 16 starts.
“It’s frustrating. Some times you think about it a little too much,” he said. “I just gotta know there’s nothing I can do about it.”
A lack of run support for Gausman isn’t a burgeoning issue, but a chronic one. In 2017, he was tied for 10th in the American League with 12 losses despite being also being 10th in the AL with 179 strikeouts.
“I can only control what I can control, and that’s what’s going on with me — trying to give the team a chance to win going deep in the game,” Gausman said. “Trying to put guys in good spots, limit the damage. Keep it between three runs or less.”
In his last start against the Angels, on Aug. 19, Gausman allowed four home runs, half off Mike Trout’s bat.
“Trout in particular, and really a lot of guys in their lineup are down hitters,” Gausman said. “You gotta be able to move the fastball around.”
So far this season, Gausman’s four-seam fastball has speckled the strike zone.
But Gausman will have to play with a little fire to send the Angels packing, pinning a majority of his strikeouts this season below the strike zone — right in the Angels’ sweet spot.
“[For those] really good hitters, you just gotta make the pitches with them and get them thinking. Not give them counts they’re favorable in, 2-0, 3-1,” he said. “Even if you do get in those counts, and you have to throw a fastball, it’s about more location and velocity.”
If Gausman maintains command, he’ll be able to, at the very least, go deep for the Orioles and let a bullpen weathered by the home series rest. With 94 innings already, he’s on track to tie, if not surpass, his 2017 total of 186 2/3.
But if the Orioles’ bats don’t buck the trend tomorrow, Gausman will have to go it alone.
“Repeating my mechanics, [that’s] really all I want to do,” he said. “When I can do that, I can be pretty tough to hit against.”