ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Kevin Gausman is proving he belongs with the Baltimore Orioles.
He has put three excellent starts together since his June 7 recall, and on Wednesday he threw six shutout innings in the Orioles' 2-0 win over the Tampa Bay Rays before 12,448 at Tropicana Field.
Gausman (3-1) was faced with an immediate crisis. The Rays (28-45) loaded the bases with none out in the first, but he struck out James Loney and Ben Zobrist, and retired David DeJesus on a foul fly ball.
In his six innings, Gausman allowed five hits, walked one and struck out five.
"Obviously it wasn't what I wanted. It's pretty tough to get out of bases loaded and no outs without guys scoring a run," Gausman said. "Honestly, I tried to dig deep right there and I was kind of thinking, 'OK, I'm going to need my best stuff this inning whether I blow out later in the game and get tired, this is big. I need to get a zero right here.' That's really all I thought about."
Baltimore (37-34) was facing Alex Cobb (2-5), who had never lost to the Orioles in four starts. Cobb was the hard-luck loser largely because of a fifth-inning error.
With two outs, Nick Markakis hit a slow grounder to second, but Zobrist booted it. Steve Pearce followed with an RBI double down the right-field line.
In seven innings, Cobb gave up just one unearned run on four hits.
Nelson Cruz, who hadn't homered since June 3, hit his 22nd, which leads the major leagues, off Kirby Yates in the eighth inning.
Cruz said he wasn't getting frustrated after his homerless streak.
"It was one of those things. It was almost impossible to stay that hot for that long, but I just keep working and hopefully I do something to contribute to the team," Cruz said. "At-bats, run the bases or play defense. It's one of those things you can't worry about. Just go out there and try to do your job."
Tommy Hunter relieved Gausman and pitched two perfect innings.
"That's what you're supposed to do. I'd like to think that the big situations, you'd like to be in," Hunter said.
In the ninth inning, Zach Britton converted his second save in two days. It was his ninth of the season.
But, it was Gausman's toughness that was the story.
"What a great job huh? He did a great job, he faced some adversity there and really gritted his teeth and closed it out," catcher Caleb Joseph said.
WIETERS HEALING: Matt Wieters said that he will return to his Atlanta home to begin rehabilitation from Tuesday's Tommy John surgery. He hopes to travel with the Orioles in August and September and thinks it's realistic for him to be ready for Opening Day 2015.
"That's the plan. It's something where they can't give you guarantees," Wieters said. "It's still Tommy John and it's going to be nine to 12 months before you're going to be back, but the plan is to hopefully, if all the rehab goes well, we'll be ready to go right around Opening Day."
Wieters first saw Dr. James Andrews in early May and then rested his right elbow before resuming throwing late last month.
"Once we started a couple throwing sessions in and it was still feeling like it was before, it was a sign that we weren't quite happy with where it was," Wieters said. "We were hoping it was going to be almost completely gone when we started throwing again. But it's something to where we always knew it was a possibility and we just didn't want to go through piecing it together for a month or so when it was inevitable and then we cost ourselves some time the following year."
A MILESTONE FOR BUCK: Showalter won his 1,200th career game with Wednesday's victory.
"You know what that means? You get an opportunity for [1,200] more if you've got good players," Showalter said. "It means I'm old. It means I'm old."