KANSAS CITY - Right-hander Kevin Gausman has had a disappointing 2017 season, that is clear for all to see. No one expected his ERA to be 7.19 after nine starts when he pitched so well in the second half last year.
Sunday’s game may have been his most disappointing, because he could not protect a 5-0 lead. In fact, he could not hold the lead even for several minutes. The Orioles went ahead 5-0 with a four-run top of the fourth and then Gausman allowed five runs in the bottom of the inning. Kansas City went on to win 9-8 and sweep the three-game series.
Gausman has allowed five runs or more in four of his last six starts. He’s allowed a batting average against of .318 to all batters. Right-handed batters, in particular, have really hurt him with a .366 average and 1.019 OPS against him.
O’s first baseman Chris Davis expressed confidence in a quiet postgame clubhouse Sunday that Gausman can turn this around.
“I think he definitely is trying to find that rhythm he was in at the end of last season,” Davis said. “That’s up to him where he finds it or what it is that kind of makes it click for him. I don’t ever doubt the fact that he’s going to work to try to find it. He’s not a guy that’s going to sit there and feel sorry for himself. You take the losses and learn from them and try to make an adjustment.”
Meanwhile Davis’ bat may have heated up over the weekend and that might be the Orioles’ best development during a series where they lost three one-run games.
“I feel better the last few games,” Davis said. “Really, I started to feel a lot better at the plate in the Chicago series. I hit a few balls that didn’t have much to show for it, but I think overall, my at-bats have felt a lot calmer, a lot more comfortable. Hopefully, I can keep that going.”
Davis is 5-for-14 during a four-game hitting streak. The last two days he went 3-for-6 with two homers and three RBIs at Kauffman Stadium. He reached base all five plate appearances Sunday with a solo homer, RBI single and three walks. His OBP in one day climbed from .345 to .368. Davis’ OPS for the year is up to .813.
This is the third time in his career Davis reached base five times. He also did that on Sept. 9, 2015 against the Yankees and June 25, 2009 for Texas against Arizona.
Defense first?: Orioles catchers know that calling the game and helping their pitchers do well is job one every night. It’s a defense-first position. But Francisco Peña and Caleb Joseph came up big at bat all three games in K.C. They combined to go 7-for-11 with three doubles, a triple, three homers and six RBIs.
Did you know this? O’s catchers began Sunday leading the majors with a .318 batting average among Joseph, Peña and Welington Castillo. Castillo has been on the disabled list since May 2 with right shoulder tendinitis. But he caught seven innings at Double-A Bowie on Sunday and went 1-for-3 at the plate. He could be activated for Tuesday’s series opener at Detroit.
Meanwhile, the Orioles are starting to hit more homers as they came up with five the last two days at a ballpark where it is tough to hit the longball. Over their last six games, the Orioles have five multi-homer games, hitting a total of 12 homers in that span.
Buck’s tribute: They are two long-time, well-respected members in the sport of baseball. Sadly, on Sunday one talked about the other on the day of his passing. Former major league umpire Steve Palermo died Sunday at 67.
Palermo, who was recently in poor health, first worked as an American League umpire in 1976 and as a full-time ump from 1977-1991. In 1991, Palermo and another man were shot while trying to help two waitresses who were being robbed outside a Dallas restaurant. He was left partially paralyzed. But through intense and painful therapy, Palermo was able to walk again with the help of a cane. In recent years, Palermo was an umpire supervisor for Major League Baseball.
His passing was truly felt hard Sunday in the press box where I was working at Kauffman Stadium. Palermo was a Kansas City resident and some reporters spoke reverentially about him.
So did O’s skipper Buck Showalter.
“That is so sad,” Showalter said. “What a great man. Probably as good an umpire as I’ve ever seen. I missed him. He used to come down here. I knew something might be up. He usually came by and saw me every time we came here.
“I’ve known Steve for a long time. My first year in the big leagues he treated me like a 20-year veteran. I’ll always remember that. Steve was a very honest man. I appreciated his bluntness. He helped me along the way. He helped a lot of people - umpires, coaches, managers. He’s as talented an umpire as I’ve seen. It’s sad news.”