Kevin Gausman’s second half is encouraging in looking toward 2018

For the second night in a row, the Orioles lost in 11 innings to Boston. They lost once when scoring eight runs and once when allowing just one run. They were 12-2 in extra-inning games heading into this series.

It was tough to lose when their starting pitcher threw as well as Kevin Gausman did last night. He pitched eight scoreless allowing just three singles to a Boston team that is leading the American League East by three games.

Gausman pitched his seventh scoreless start of 2017, his fifth in his last 11 games and third in his past five starts. Over his past 12 games, his ERA is 2.26. Gausman went eight or more innings for the fifth time in his career. Solid fastball command and a disappearing splitter down in the zone have been strong for him for much of the second half.

Kevin-Gausman-4th-of-July-sidebar.jpgOnce again, Gausman has pitched better after the All-Star break. Last year he went 1-6 with a 4.15 ERA in the first half and 8-6 with a 3.10 ERA in the second half. This season, he went 5-7 with a 5.85 ERA in the first half and is 6-3 with a 3.09 ERA after the All-Star Game. And that counts his first start out of the break on July 14 when he gave up eight runs over three innings against the Cubs.

Gausman was asked why his second half has been so much better this year.

“I think (I’m) not trying as hard. I think earlier on, I was kind of pressing,” he said. “Trying to have a good year straight out of the gate and I think maybe I was just trying to do too much. Kind of simplified my delivery and feeling good with all my pitches.”

Looking ahead to 2018, Gausman is going to have to find a way to capture that mindset and performance level to start the year. He can’t repeat that first half next season. Over these past 12 starts, he reduced his ERA from 6.39 to 4.61.

He has gone from a pitcher that some were convinced would never be good again to one that still will be counted on to head up the future rotation with Dylan Bundy over the next few years. Gausman is under team control through the 2020 season. He and Bundy are locked in for the next few seasons.

Now the Orioles just have to figure out for 2018 which pitchers will join Bundy and Gausman in that rotation.

What can the club do to build a better rotation in 2018? Should they pursue a free agent that is within their financial reach? Are Alex Cobb or Lance Lynn that guy? Which pitchers can they count on internally to make a run for a rotation spot next season?

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