Denied a chance to turn around his season due to a quick ejection in Boston last Wednesday, O’s right-hander Kevin Gausman instead did so against the majors’ best offense tonight.
Facing a Washington Nationals team that was averaging 6.26 runs per game during a 21-10 start, Gausman allowed five hits and two runs over seven innings tonight as the Orioles beat the Nats 6-4 at Camden Yards.
In his first seven starts, Gausman had gone 1-3 with a 7.55 ERA and 1.935 WHIP. Then he retired the first nine Nats on 34 pitches tonight. For the first time this year he truly looked liked the pitcher that threw so well in the second half of the 2016 season.
“That was big for me,” Gausman said. “Wish I was able to do that my last start, but obviously some things happened. It was just good to go out there and feel like myself. It was good to command the fastball and be able to throw it wherever I wanted to. Then when I can do that and throw my secondary stuff strike-to-ball, it’s a good night for me.
“One thing I wanted to do is pound the strike zone and get ahead of these guys. Obviously, they are swinging the bats pretty well, so hopefully that gives me extra confidence going into the next one.”
Gausman tonight reached season highs in innings, strikeouts with eight and pitches with 116. He got swings and misses on seven of 23 split-finger fastballs.
“Yeah, I had a good feel for my curveball and slider. Split was really on tonight. They have a lot of good left-handed hitters, so I knew that would be a big pitch for me. Also to be able to throw it to right-handed hitters, down and away and letting the action of the pitch do the rest. I felt really good with everything tonight, and the defense playing behind me was great too.
“Top to bottom, that lineup is tough. I knew I was going to really have to pitch tonight. I pitched better today than I have this whole season. Getting 0-1 counts on it seemed like just about every hitter was good. Definitely happy with the progress I’m making.”
As catcher Matt Wieters returned to Baltimore tonight as an opponent for the first time, Gausman faced his former catcher three times. Thanks to a diving stop in the third by shortstop J.J. Hardy, he held Wieters hitless in three at-bats.
“It was weird (facing him),” he said. “They gave him a great reception, as I think they should. I actually pitched against Nick Markakis his first game back here too, so I’ve been able to be a part of some cool things in my short major league career. Great class by the fans. He had a lot do with bringing our team back to expecting winning seasons.”
Beginning the night batting .174, O’s catcher Caleb Joseph raised his average to .240, going 4-for-4 with four singles and an RBI. It’s his second career four-hit game. The first was Aug. 31, 2014, against Minnesota.
“It’s a tough league,” Joseph said. “I think I’m better than what I’ve shown over the past year and a half. Today was nice. Little individual accomplishment and the team wins. Everybody wins.”
Joseph was asked what the difference was for Gausman tonight.
“I think fastball command down and away. The hitters will tell you that. When it leaks over the middle of the plate, he’s not as good as he should be. The slider, curve and split - they play off of that. The down-and-away fastball is always a very key pitch. Really encouraging start.”
Trey Mancini went boom-boom for the Orioles again tonight. His two-run homer in the first capped a three-home-run inning against left-hander Gio Gonzalez that provided Gausman a 4-0 lead. Mancini blasted No. 7 a distance of 433 feet. Was it the hardest ball he’s hit this year?
“I think probably the hardest ball was in Boston this year, but I’m not too sure. Tonight I had a good sense (that ball was gone).”
Over his past five games, Mancini is 10-for-16 (.625) with two homers and eight RBIs. He has four straight multi-hit games and has at least one RBI in six consecutive games.
And he hit this latest homer on the night they gave away Mancini T-shirts at Camden Yards.
“Wade Miley recommended that I wear the T-shirt under my jersey. And if I hit a home run, rip my jersey open. I said ‘There is no shot I am doing that.’ I was quite honored to have a T-shirt night,” Mancini said.