Kevin Gausman pitched nine innings of scoreless, two-hit baseball Saturday, the best outing of his major league career. The Orioles lost anyway — 2-0 in 12 innings to the Oakland Athletics at Oakland Coliseum.

In between the dominant frames from Gausman and Mychal Givens, the Orioles singled four times and doubled three times, but struck out a season-high 20 times and stranded 11 while going 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position.


So, when Rule 5 reliever Pedro Araujo served up a one-out single to Jed Lowrie and then a two-run home run to Khris Davis in the 12th, it clinched what anyone who has much experience with these 2018 Orioles suspected might happen: they found a new way to lose.

The Orioles could be on their way to a historically bad record this season. They really aren't as bad as their ugly record, but we're reaching the point where that isn't going to make any difference.

A starting pitcher tosses nine scoreless innings and not only doesn't get a win, but won't even have a complete game or shutout to show for it on his bubblegum card. The Orioles allowed four hits in 12 innings, with none from the fourth through the 11th inning, and lost. They are 8-25, with 11 straight losses on the road and 17 of 20 overall. No team in baseball is worse.

"It's tough," Gausman said. "I think any pitcher will say if you're a starter and you go nine innings, I think you kind of expect to win the game. Obviously, we're scuffling right now."

"Ah jeez, what can you say?" manager Buck Showalter said. "Unfortunately, their guy was really good, too."

He's right. Plenty of pitchers have pitched the Orioles backwards this year and completely shut them down. It is the scouting report. It's not going away.

They just have to hope this consistency from Gausman doesn't, either. That Gausman had the best start of his career, with a game score of 92, is a good development no matter the context, even in a season as hopeless as this one seems. But that it comes as part of his best extended run in years is something the Orioles will smile on.

Usually, even the best stretches of Gausman's career have featured a five-run head-scratcher mixed in with the quality starts.

That's what makes the nine innings Saturday and the five starts that preceded it stand out. It's a sliding scale, to be sure, but he's allowed three runs or fewer and pitched at least five innings in each of his past six starts. He hasn't allowed three runs or fewer in this many consecutive starts since 2014, when he did so seven straight times in late July and August as the Orioles powered their way to a division title.

They are far from that as a whole, but the potential of Gausman becoming this reliable and this consistent is a fine consolation — especially after he has regressed several times, leading to skepticism over the years.

Gausman, 27, did it Saturday without the swing-and-miss stuff that usually carries him to his best success. He struck out six, and didn't have much command of his slider or splitter. It mattered little.

His fastball was consistently down in the zone, working the corners of an inconsistent strike zone and otherwise staying out of the danger area. It was mostly grounders and lazy fly balls right at his outfielders.

The two hits he allowed were against the shift — a one-out single to Marcus Semien in the first inning through the vacated right side, and a one-out single in the third inning past the lone defender on the left side, Manny Machado, with catcher Bruce Maxwell at the plate.

Otherwise, Gausman's outing was low stress. He had to get an extra out in the third when, on a would-be 3-6-1 double play, the Orioles were so sure the safe call at first would be reversed that everyone but Gausman and first baseman Chris Davis were in the dugout when the umpires upheld the call. He worked around leadoff walks in the fourth and the sixth, and even got an extra out in the third.

He walked two, and didn't allow a runner to reach second base the whole game. He threw his three hardest pitches of the season, topped by a 98.2 mph fastball, to Khris Davis in his final batter of the game.


"It's kind of like a shark that smells blood in the water," Gausman said. "They're coming. I knew that was my last hitter, and I wasn't going to get beat on a 91 [mph fastball], down and away. I wasn't going to get cheated that last batter, for sure."

Orioles reliever Brad Brach is being used much earlier in games than his All-Star status would suggest in an effort to get him back on track after a rough start to 2018.

The result was a sixth straight start of three earned runs or fewer — a run matched only once by Gausman, a seven-start stretch beginning on July 25, 2014, when he posted a 3.63 ERA. He ended 2016 well, to the tune of a 3.10 ERA over his last 15 starts. But that stretch included four games with five runs allowed. After a miserable start to 2017, he had a 2.70 ERA in his last 14 starts. Three of those starts featured five runs in, too.

Gausman only has his forgettable 2018 debut — six runs in four innings — weighing down his start to this season. As it stands, this six-start run with a 2.27 ERA has contributed to a 3.30 ERA in 43 2/3 innings overall.

"I'm really happy," Gausman said. "Kind of all the time that I spent this offseason really trying to focus on my delivery and landing in the same spot every time has really paid off. That's something that, next offseason, I'll kind of really have to think about what I'm doing. But I feel good right now. I feel confident and comfortable with my mechanics, and really, right now, I feel like I can throw any pitch in any count. It's always good when you feel that way."

Even one run would have made him a winner Saturday, but a throwback performance from 30-year-old Trevor Cahill meant the Orioles fanned 12 times in the first six innings.

"You do what you can, but Cahill obviously brought his game, too, tonight," designated hitter Mark Trumbo said. "It was slim pickings out there. There weren't a lot of pitches to hit. The pitching was really at the forefront tonight."

The Orioles could have scored one in the fourth inning, when Machado hit a leadoff single and would have had a chance to score on a two-out double to center field by Trumbo if he hadn't been caught stealing the batter before. They had two on in the seventh, and two on in the eighth, but left them all. In the eighth, Machado was intentionally walked for the sixth time this year to put two on with one out, but Chris Davis struck out looking and Trumbo popped out.

"We had a lot of chances — not many, but some chances to push across a run if we get a big two-out knock, but I just feel for Gaus," Showalter said. "That's about as good as you can see a starting pitcher pitch."

Said Gausman: "We've just got to keep grinding. That's really all we can do. We've got a game tomorrow, and we play every day. We've got a quick turnaround and you've got to forget about it, but we just need to do something to kind of just get things rolling. It seems like we get guys on base, and they kind of stay there. We've just got to be better at winning games, you know? That's what it comes down to. We've just got to be better at shutting the door and taking advantage of opportunities."

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