The Orioles defeat the Yankees, 5-2, in the series opener. (Jon Meoli, Baltimore Sun video)
NEW YORK — Orioles right-hander Kevin Gausman hopes to take a more aggressive approach into his second start of the season after the Minnesota Twins shelled him in his 2018 debut Sunday at Camden Yards.
"More than anything, just attack hitters," Gausman said ahead of his start Friday night against the New York Yankees. "I think I kind of went into that game more focusing on pitching, mixing my pitches, one thing that I did really well in spring. But I didn't necessarily have the right mindset of just going after guys.
"I got in some hitter-friendly counts, and made some bad decisions on pitches and pitch location. Essentially that was what made it 4-0 rather than 3-0 after the first."
Gausman trailed by four runs before the Orioles even took a swing thanks to a first-pitch home run by Brian Dozier, a walk, then three hits and a wild pitch. And even though Gausman found success late in 2017 by mixing speeds with his fastball, all the way from 90 mph to his typical 97-98 mph on the higher end, he never found that extra gear on Sunday.
Because he'd been working on a two-seam fastball with teammate Andrew Cashner in spring training, it was unclear whether Gausman's four-seam fastball was light or whether he was throwing the two-seamer. But an indicator with him is if he's commanding the four-seamer, then he'll mix in the sinker. He never found it Sunday, so he didn't mix in the two-seamer.
Still, the results Sunday shed light on a quandary for the 27-year-old right-hander. How much is too much when it comes to changing speeds with a fastball?
"I think that's always been kind of the million-dollar question," Gausman said. "I've been hurt on sinkers before and had pitching coaches, you know, kind of yell at me and say, 'Why didn't you throw them your hard four-seamer right there?' It's kind of the big question mark, because sometimes it works, and other times, you're going to get frustrated at yourself, because rather than throwing 96, four-seamer, you throw a 92-mph sinker and for whatever reason, maybe it doesn't sink as much as you'd like it to. They're so spread out that 92 after 97 and 98 is a little bit of a difference."
The way the Orioles pitching staff is built at present, they team will need Gausman to be at his best on Friday for more than just his own sake. Thursday night's 5-2 win over the Yankees required Mychal Givens, Darren O'Day and Brad Brach to pitch three innings of relief. Givens and O'Day might be unavailable after throwing 26 and 28 pitches, respectively, and the Orioles haven't had success so far holding leads with Miguel Castro, Nestor Cortes Jr. or Pedro Araujo. That means they'll need Gausman to go deep and hold the Yankees down with another productive offensive night to complement it and build on Thursday's momentum.