When Orioles right-hander Kevin Gausman walked off the mound after the fourth inning Wednesday, moments after third baseman Manny Machado turned in another stunning defensive gem, the rookie said he wasn't dreaming of his potential moment in history.
Sure, Gausman had retired 12 straight hitters to begin what was just the 15th start of his major league career and, sure, Machado and right fielder Nick Markakis had already delivered highlight-reel defensive plays that are often made in no-hitters or perfect games.
But the 23-year-old Gausman said it was just too early to get caught up in what might be.
“If it would have happened in the eighth or seventh, I would have been like, ‘This is my day,' ” Gausman said. “But it happened in the fourth. So, a little bit too early for that.”
It wasn't too early, though, for Orioles manager Buck Showalter to start thinking what would happen if Gausman continued to mow down batters without allowing a hit or a walk.
“I was thinking about it. Just look up there and saw the zeros and hope it continued,” Showalter said. “I was trying to figure out if he'd have enough pitches to do it with. A lot of borderline pitches that weren't going his way, and it kind of snowballed on him.”
After getting two more outs in the fifth, Gausman walked three straight batters, allowed a two-run single to Angels catcher Chris Iannetta and then a run-scoring double to Kole Calhoun. His perfect game, no-hitter and shutout disappeared in a blink.
“Gave up that hit to Iannetta," Gausman said. “He knew a fastball was coming. I think everybody in the park knew a fastball was coming. So I left it over the plate a little too much.”
Gausman (5-3) nearly gave back a four-run lead before striking out perennial American League Most Valuable Player candidate Mike Trout to end the troublesome fifth. He then retired five of the next six batters he faced — catcher Caleb Joseph threw out Josh Hamilton trying to steal in the sixth — and settled for an exceptionally well-pitched, seven-inning outing.
“I was more impressed with how he came out and pitched the next two innings. [Or] as impressed,” Showalter said.
Gausman faced the minimum three batters in every inning but the fifth and then turned the ball over to Darren O'Day and closer Zach Britton (21st save) for two scoreless innings. It pushed the Orioles (60-46) to a season-best 14 games over .500 while guaranteeing another series win against the formidable Angels (63-43). Overall, the Orioles have lost just one of their last nine series, dropping two of three games against the Oakland Athletics to start the second half.
“The second half of the season is where you need to win series,” center fielder Adam Jones said. “You try to go out and just try to sweep everybody, and it ain't gonna happen. You need to win series.”
The Orioles now have captured four of five games against the Angels this season; all five have been decided by two runs or fewer. They now have the third-best record in the major leagues and will go for the sweep Thursday.
It wasn't easy Wednesday night before an announced 27,195. But good pitching, tremendous defense and another early homer by Jones paved the way. In the third inning, Markakis made an excellent diving catch. Machado ended the fourth with what will go down as one of the best plays of his young career, which is particularly impressive considering Machado won the AL Platinum Glove for top defender in the league last season.
With two outs in the fourth, Albert Pujols hit a hard grounder down the line. Machado backhanded it behind third base, his momentum taking him about five steps into the grass in foul territory before unleashing a bullet to Steve Pearce. The first baseman had to make a nice stretch into foul territory, and Pujols was easily out.
“As soon as he gloved it, he has such a cannon you know he can make that throw,” Pearce said. “I was just happy he put it in the vicinity where I could get to it. It was in the area, and I had time, and Pujols isn't the best runner.”
The Orioles needed to play a complete game because Angels right-hander Garrett Richards pitched well, with the exception of a couple brief rough spots. With one out in the first inning, Richards allowed a single to Machado and then a two-run homer to center by Jones. It was Jones' 21st homer of the season and 11th to come in the first inning. The Orioles now are 10-1 in games in which Jones has homered in the first inning.
“If you are able to get some runs across early, I think it allows the starting pitcher to breathe, especially young guys that we have on our team,” Jones said.
The Orioles center fielder is on a roll since appearing in his fourth All-Star Game on July 15 in Minneapolis. He now has hit five homers in 12 games since the break. With the homer, Jones now has 85 at Camden Yards, tying him for fourth with Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. He trails only Rafael Palmeiro (124), Brady Anderson (91) and Melvin Mora (89).
Richards (11-4) allowed two more runs in the fourth on a two-out double by David Lough and an RBI single by Ryan Flaherty. Lough raced from second base and beat the throw home from Hamilton in left field to score what proved to be a crucial run.
“It was big, we were lucky to score as many as we did,” Lough said. “[Richards] is such a good pitcher, and to be able to put those up fairly early. We made a lot of defensive plays tonight that kept us in the ballgame and kind of shut them down. But with their offense you can't get lazy out there.”
Or start thinking about making history.