Kevin Gausman made his big league debut last night in Toronto, and with mixed results at that. He breezed through the first three innings before running into a few problems in the final two. Gausman’s line: 5 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 2 BB, 5 K. I think that the aspect of his game that impressed me the most was the way that he changed speeds on his pitches. In one sequence he threw a 94 MPH fastball that was fouled off, got a called strike on an 84 MPH changeup, and then a called strike three on a 98 MPH fastball. Those are some pretty deadly combinations in terms of getting pitches over for strikes.
The Baltimore Orioles got off to an early 3-0 lead off of Manny Machado‘s two-RBI double in the third inning. Those runs were manufactured in part by Chris Dickerson and Nate McLouth both getting on base and Buck Showalter calling for a double steal (which was successful). Chris Davis led off the fourth with a solo homer, and the O’s appeared on their way. However the second time through the order Toronto appeared to figure out Gausman just a bit. Adam Lind led off the last of the fourth with a double, and J.P. Arencibia doubled him home. Emilio Bonifacio later sacrificed Brett Lawrie home to cut the Birds’ lead to 3-2.
However it was the last of the fifth that did Gausman in. After recording the first two outs quickly, Adam Lind got on base with a two-out single, which was followed up by an Arencibia home run. That wiped out the quality start, and it wiped out the Orioles’ lead. Gausman would retire the side and that would be his last inning of work. However a four-run sixth inning ultimately did in the Orioles. Troy Patton put two runners on, and Pedro Strop walked the first hitter he saw to load the bases. Juan Encarnacion picked that moment to take advantage of Strop’s control (or lack thereof), and served up a grand slam for the Toronto fans.
The good news is that the Orioles did make a slight comeback attempt. After Hardy scored on a sac fly in the seventh inning, Nick Markakis and Adam Jones hit back-to-back homers to lead off the eighth. While that brought the Orioles to within 8-6, the issue of course was that they were solo home runs. Toronto pitcher Brandon Morrow can probably live with giving up solo home runs, especially with a four-run lead. (Although Morrow was pulled after the Jones home run and MASN cameras caught him having a bit of a meltdown in the dugout.)
Toronto’s four-run eighth inning sealed the game, and the Orioles could probably stand to take a few notes in adding on insurance runs. It’s important to note that while all four of those runs were charged to T.J. McFarland, he can’t shoulder the blame for it in total. With a runner on base, Jose Bautista reached on a rare J.J. Hardy error. A moment later we saw another rarity: a Matt Wieters passed ball. Bautista was safe at second base, and Gose (the runner on second) came around and tried to score. Home plate umpire Tony Randazzo ruled that he alluded Wieters’ tag, and replays were inconclusive. My initial gut reaction was that he was out, however it was a bang-bang play. An RBI-single and a sacrifice fly-RBI later, and Toronto closed out their 12-6 victory.
What Orioles’ fans should take away from this game is that Gausman showed a lot of promise. He ran into some struggles for sure, and those are things that him and pitching coach Rick Adair will have to work through. That’s baseball, and it’s part of learning for a young pitcher. As I said, the one thing that I took away from all of this was Gausman’s ability to change speeds. That’s something I feel will guide him through his career if he can keep it up. Some of his pitches flattened out a bit in the fourth and fifth innings, however he had Toronto hitters guessing in the first three.
The series continues tonight, with Chris Tillman on the mound for the Birds. Tillman of course lost his previous start against Tampa last weekend at Camden Yards, however he turned in a quality start and didn’t pitch poorly. The tables will turn a bit tonight as Toronto will debut Sean Nolin on the mound tonight, who will be making his first big league start.