Kevin Gausman shows he's 'a weapon' in the bullpen

As he transitioned back into a relief role for the American League Division Series, Orioles right-hander Kevin Gausman said he was ready for whatever role manager Buck Showalter had in store for him.

Gausman was called to make his postseason debut in Friday afternoon's ALDS Game 2 with a critical task: Halt a Detroit Tigers offensive onslaught.

After left-hander Wei-Yin Chen allowed five runs in the fourth inning, the 23-year-old Gausman entered with a runner on second base and two outs, then struck out Ian Kinsler swinging on a 98 mph fastball..

The Tigers took a 5-3 lead in the inning, but Gausman prevented further damage and provided the perfect bridge to the late innings, allowing the Orioles to rally for a 7-6 comeback win.

Gausman cooled the Tigers offense, retiring nine of the first 10 batters he faced. He allowed one run over 3 2/3 innings in his first relief appearance since Sept. 28, 2013 after making 32 starts this season, including 20 at the major league level.

When the Orioles held Gausman to five innings or 75 pitches through the first two months of the season, this was why, so he could be used in a variety of roles in October.

"A lot of times with young players like that, if you can put them into a 'come to the rescue' mode where they have a margin, the expectations are probably potentially lower than what he has," Showalter said. "Kevin has high expectations. You just got to remember to breathe it in. Kevin presented himself real well. And we thought he could be a weapon for us in the bullpen in the playoffs because with their lineup, you're going to have some challenges pitching to them."

Gausman had a dangerous Tigers lineup swinging at air, with five of his first eight outs coming by strikeout, all of them swinging. Gausman relied on a four-seam fastball that sat at 95-98 mph and topped at 99 mph on the stadium radar gun. His fastball averaged 94.8 mph in the regular season.

"A little anxious, definitely," Gausman said of making his debut. "Once I started warming up, I felt pretty good right away. Usually it takes me a good amount to get loose, but two throws and I was ready to go, ready to get in there. But, yeah, I felt good once I got in the game, just tried to establish the fastball in and go from there."

Gausman allowed a leadoff single to Torii Hunter in the fifth, but received a nice defensive play from third baseman Ryan Flaherty, who dove into the hole on Miguel Cabrera's sharp grounder and began a 5-4-3 double play.

Gausman issued a leadoff walk to Hunter. Cabrera followed with a single and Victor Martinez doubled to give the Tigers a 6-3 lead, forcing Gausman from the game.

Right-hander Brad Brach replaced Gausman, who left to a loud ovation from the Camden Yards crowd.

Sutcliffe loves seeing the Yards full

Former All Star and National League Cy Young Award winner Rick Sutcliffe was at Camden Yards for the first two games of the ALDS as part of ESPN Radio's broadcast team. Sutcliffe won 26 games in two seasons for the Orioles in 1992-93, including 16 in 1992.

But he'll always be remembered around here for throwing the first pitch in Camden Yards history — a ball to Cleveland's Kenny Lofton — and delivering a complete game shutout that afternoon to usher in a new era in Baltimore on an exceptionally high note. He said he loves coming back to the place he helped open.

"There are not better baseball fans anywhere in the world than what they have here. That's why today is so special for me and yesterday was, too, to see this place full again," Sutcliffe said. "Because I never saw an empty seat in the two years I was here. They just love baseball here and they know baseball."

Around the horn

The Orioles are 10-5 in ALDS play, going 6-2 at home and 4-3 on the road. … With two hits Friday, Orioles designated hitter Nelson Cruz has hit safely in seven of his last eight postseason games. He is hitting .323/.400/.613 over that span. … After Friday's game, the Orioles traded right-handed pitcher Preston Guilmet to the Pittsburgh Pirates for cash considerations. Guilmet was designated for assignment on Saturday to make 40-man space for infielder Alexi Casilla. … Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander had posted five straight 10-strikeouts games in the ALDS entering Friday, but had just four strikeouts vs. the Orioles. … First baseman Miguel Cabrera has hit safely in 14 of his last 15 postseason games going back to Oct. 27, 2012.

Baltimore Sun reporter Dan Connolly contributed.

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