Kevin Gausman has navigated this season, mostly successfully, believing that singles won't truly hurt him. A hit here and a hit there, with some effective pitch-making to follow, can still lead to a good day on the mound.
Those fortunes finally turned Thursday night at Camden Yards when the Orioles lost, 5-4, in their makeup game against the Philadelphia Phillies, dropping them to a league-worst 26-68 with three games remaining before the All-Star break, as Gausman allowed five runs on a career-high 12 hits. Hardly any were hit solidly.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve seen that many poorly-hit balls fall for hits,” Showalter said. “Just snake-bit tonight. He couldn’t catch a break. I’ve got no fault with the way Kevin pitched tonight. He deserved a lot better fate.”
His previous season high was the 11 hits he allowed in 7 1/3 innings of two-run ball May 11 against the Tampa Bay Rays. He's allowed nine hits four times, surrendering two, zero, five and three earned runs in those outings. He doesn't always get away with it, but as Gausman pitches more to contact in an effort to be more efficient and not rely on his ability to blow batters away, nights like Thursday — in front of defenses like the Orioles’ — could quickly turn ugly.
“It’s hard for me to fault a guy who threw that many quality pitches and got weak contact and gave up hits,” Showalter said. “That’s the whole idea, either make them swing and miss or weak contact. He did a little bit of both, you know?”
Said Gausman: “I've never been a part of something like tonight, where it was so extreme. They probably had 10 hits that were pretty bloop hits, throughout the whole night. That's the crazy thing.”
Of the 12 hits Gausman allowed, nine had exit velocities of 85 mph or below, according to MLB's Statcast data. No other major league pitcher had allowed more than six in a game this season.
Seven had hit probabilities for similar batted balls of under 50 percent. That includes the three singles that loaded the bases in the Phillies' two-run third inning, which gave them an early 2-0 lead. In the fourth, Gausman allowed a single, hit a batter and let both runners advance on a wild pitch before Jorge Alfaro doubled over right fielder Mark Trumbo's head to double the Phillies' advantage.
By then, it went from weak hits to legitimate ones, then back again. Alfaro homered to open the sixth, and Gausman allowed two more singles — the second another bloop — before being pulled, having allowed five runs in five-plus innings with his ERA at 4.33 and the Orioles trailing by five.
Rookie Paul Fry held it there, and the Orioles chipped back with an RBI single by Manny Machado that hit off the leg of Phillies starter Nick Pivetta and scored Tim Beckham from third in the sixth.
Trey Mancini, back from his day off Wednesday, hit a two-run home run to chase Pivetta in the seventh, and on former Orioles reliever Tommy Hunter's first pitch, Jace Peterson homered onto the right-field flag court to cut the deficit to 5-4.
“We made a pretty good run at them there,” Showalter said. “Couldn’t push that last one across to tie it up.”
Said Gausman: “Any loss by one run is a tough loss. You've got to keep grinding, and at some point, things will even out. But obviously, right now, we're not where we want to be.”