BOWIE, Md. - It was not the easiest night to play or pitch. There was on-and-off rain. And, for a rare occasion, Kevin Gausman saw his command a bit on and off, too.
The Orioles' 2012 first-round pick still pitched well, giving up just one run, but after walking just one batter in his first six starts over 35 2/3 innings, Gausman walked three last night in Double-A Bowie's 2-1 loss to Erie, going to a three-ball count nine times.
"For the conditions, I felt pretty good," Gausman said. "I had a good grip on the ball and I never like to make excuses. I was kind of just jerking some pitches. For me, it's kind of tough, going from walking one guy the whole year to three in one game. I'm like, 'What the heck.' "
Gausman's spotty command elevated his pitch count and he was taken out at 96 pitches after going 4 2/3 frames, allowing three hits and one run with three walks and seven strikeouts.
"I didn't throw very many changeups at all tonight," he said. "I was mostly throwing my slider as my secondary pitch. Early in the game, I threw a few changeups and I didn't really have the feel I usually have for it, so I went more to the slider. I was feeling really comfortable with it. That is huge for me in my development and I'm excited about that part of it."
It certainly could have gone worse for him. When Erie put the first two runners on in the fourth, he got two strikeouts and a groundout to end that threat. With men on second and third and no outs in the fifth, he got a shallow flyout followed by a strikeout. At that point, reaching his pitch limit, he was taken out of the game.
Gausman threw 19 pitches in the first inning, 10 in the second, 26 in the third, 18 in the fourth and 23 in the fifth.
Erie went 0-for-7 against him with runners in scoring position.
"I felt like I had a lot of guys on because I walked guys tonight, but I didn't give up very many hits and I tried to minimize it," Gausman said.
Gausman said he felt he had decent command of his fastball, but even that was not at the level it usually is. Bowie manager Gary Kendall saw about the same thing.
"He was OK. A lot of three-ball counts, more than normal," Kendall said. "The third inning there he really struggled with his off-speed pitches. He didn't get as far in the game as he would have liked, but he kept us in the game. He just wasn't as sharp as he normally is. He usually doesn't have many three-ball counts.
"But he competed and if that is not one of his better outings, we're in pretty good shape. He held a pretty good hitting team to one run."
Gausman allowed two earned runs or fewer for the fourth consecutive start and he has an ERA of 1.85 over those outings.
He knows that the Orioles have already used nine starting pitchers and that any Double-A or Triple-A minor league hurler, him included, could pitch himself to the big leagues.
"That is something they've been known to do (call up pitchers from the minors)," Gausman said. "It's exciting for every starter and really every pitcher in the organization. You feel like you have a chance. If you pitch well, you will move up.
"I think there is more incentive when you feel like you have a chance. That makes you want to pitch better. If you pitch well, people will take notice."
On a rainy Saturday night in Bowie, Gausman got his work in and kept his team in the game on a night he didn't have his best. He continued to develop his slider and took yet another step on the road to Baltimore.