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Orioles' Kevin Gausman finally rewarded for progress with win over Angels

Since the Orioles don’t win much, neither do their pitchers, and that fact has gone a long way toward obscuring the steps right-hander Kevin Gausman has made to make efforts such as his eight strong innings Sunday the rule rather than the exception.

Gausman won for the first time in nine starts despite allowing only two runs or fewer in six of his previous eight, bringing his ERA closer to four with each passing outing. He won because the Orioles won, but all that correlation has done to this point is obscure the growth of a pitcher who has outgrown his team.

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“I think he’s kind of under-the-radar been a front-line starter in a lot of ways,” said slugger Mark Trumbo, whose two home runs paced the offense in an 8-2 win Sunday. “I know that our record is going to be the bigger story, but I think he’s taken some big steps forward and shut down some really good offenses.”

Sunday against the Angels was just the latest example of that, and the second instance of that for Gausman in this homestand alone. Both he and right-hander Andrew Cashner turned in a pair of quality starts over the team’s seven-game homestand that began with a visit from the Seattle Mariners, with the Orioles managing three, two and two runs in in their starts before Sunday as the team went 0-6 leading up to Sunday’s win.

No team has lost more than the Orioles when their starters have gone at least six innings and allowed three or fewer runs, with the club tied for the lead in the majors with 22 defeats in 39 such games. And no pitcher has been hurt by that fact more than Gausman, who has lost seven such outings and has 10 quality starts overall.

On Sunday, he continued that by pitching eight innings of six-hit, two-run ball with no walks and with two strikeouts — including one on a 97-mph fastball to Mike Trout to end the eighth inning.

It’s all conspired to make for one of the more consistent seasons anyone on the Orioles has had, and that’s a trait that Gausman has long been searching for. The duds can be counted easily. In 17 starts, he’s allowed more than three runs in four of them. He’s completed five innings and allowed three or fewer in every other one.

Over his past five games, he’s posted a 2.76 ERA, only slightly less successful than the six-start span in April and into May when he started taking his hands over his head in his delivery and had a 2.27 ERA after struggling in his first start of the season.

“I felt like early on in the season, I kind of put together a little bit better of a month, but I feel like I’m throwing the ball well. I feel really good in my delivery, and ever since I went hands over the head, I feel like this has just been night-and-day, able to command the ball and really all my off-speed pitches. That’s the key word — consistency. You’re always trying to be the same guy every five days.”

In Sunday’s game, being able to stay in the strike zone and force swings and weak contact from the Angels was imperative with his teammates dealing with the triple-digit heat index at Camden Yards.

He allowed the first batter of the game, Kole Calhoun, to score after he doubled down the first-base line and came around on a single by Albert Pujols. But in between that and a two-out home run by Calhoun in the eighth inning, it was mostly quick work for the Orioles in the field.

“I know his teammates are a big fan of his, but even more so today,” manager Buck Showalter said. “You pitch eight innings in that weather and give your team that type of chance to win, that’s impressive.”

Showalter believes Gausman is one of many whose progress is obscured by the team’s league-worst record. Whether it’s a lack of run support or elevated pitch counts, Gausman seems to always be answering for something other than the positives in his performance.

Showalter said: “I don’t chuckle or eye-roll or any of that stuff, it’s just, when I hear people kind of negative, Kevin has cut his teeth in the American League East and he’s kind of a good hardened to it. This guy doesn’t dwell around too much on successes and failures.”

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