Matched against three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer on Thursday night, Kevin Gausman knew he had just a slight margin for error against the Washington Nationals.
And he was right: The Orioles right-hander recorded another quality start that went for naught.
It’s becoming a familiar feeling for the Orioles starting rotation — putting up a quality start but not receiving the run support to win. For Gausman, Thursday’s outing — a 4-2 loss at Nationals Park — was his fifth nondecision quality start, and the Orioles have lost all five of those games.
“Another quality start by our guys,” manager Buck Showalter said. “We couldn't really mount a whole lot of offense other than [two solo home runs]. Kevin matched [Scherzer].”
Orioles starters have recorded 31 quality starts, and the team is 14-19 in those games.
Gausman allowed just two runs over six innings in the interleague series finale, holding the Nationals to four hits while throwing a season-high 114 pitches.
“They got him in some deep counts but two runs over six innings, you'll take your chances,” Showalter said.
Gausman also allowed just one hit in his final two innings, but it was a damaging one, Anthony Rendon’s home run to lead off the sixth. The Nationals scored their first run on Bryce Harper’s sacrifice fly in the third, which followed a single by Wilmer Difo and Pedro Severino’s double to open the inning.
“The one I’m most mad about is you’ve got two outs and you’ve got an 0-2 count on Harper, you kind of have to put him away there,” Gausman said. “But I just kind of battled and I really had to.”
Gausman was given a pair of one-run leads, a 1-0 cushion in the second after Colby Rasmus’ homer, and then a 2-1 lead in the fourth after Mark Trumbo’s homer. Fifty-three of the Orioles’ 83 homers this season have been with the bases empty.
“Obviously, whenever [Scherzer is] on the mound, you know runs are going to come at a premium,” Gausman said. “You just try to take advantage of those opportunities you get. Trumbo and Colby did a good job of putting a good part of the bat on the ball. That type of guy, two runs is tough. He’s obviously one of the best pitchers in the game and has been for a long time. You know he’s going to go seven innings every time he pitches, so it’s tough.”
Gausman relied on his fastball — throwing it 64 percent of the time Thursday — to pitch to contact. He recorded just three swinging strikes, two of those on splitters that completed strikeouts.
A season-high four walks, as well as 32 foul balls, drove Gausman’s pitch count up. He found himself working behind — he threw just 10 of 24 first-pitch strikes — which led to too many deep counts.
“I felt good physically,” Gausman said. “It was pretty sporadic to be honest. Obviously my walks kind of showed that. … They did a really good job of fouling off really good pitches and also taking some really good pitches, too, so they definitely battled.”
The Orioles are just 4-11 in games Gausman has started, that despite eight quality starts. They have lost all five of his nondecision quality starts, including his best outing of the season, a nine-inning scoreless start in a 2-0 12-inning loss in Oakland. Gausman also recorded a scoreless nondecision May 22 in Chicago, 6 1/3 scoreless frames and 10 strikeouts against the White Sox in a 3-2 loss.