Fans can start a new count; the Baltimore Orioles have now recorded one quality start in as many games in a row. There was no reason why Kevin Gausman even should have been in the game – figuratively as well as literally. Gausman took 35 pitches to get out of the first inning, due mostly to what appeared to be a very tight (or non-existent) strike zone as well as a J.J. Hardy error. Gausman did yield a base hit, however he found himself in a bases-loaded situation with nobody out – and he managed to get out of it. Gausman’s line: 6 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 5 K.
I would submit that the most impressive aspect of Gausman’s performance was the manner in which he changed speeds. He kept Tampa
guessing and their hitters on their toes for much if not all of his six innings in the ballgame. When hitters were looking fastball, he’d go to his changeup and either catch them looking or have them swing through it. When there appeared to be doubt as to whether he’d throw that fastball, he’d go after the hitter and induce a pop fly in the outfield.
Unfortunately for the Orioles, Tampa starter Alex Cobb was almost equally as good. He held Oriole bats at bay for the most part. And the funny thing is that it’s games such as this one that Tampa has normally won in the past. Keep in mind that Tampa’s a team that values one run as much as anything else. Whereas if you have the bases loaded with nobody out and someone grounds into a double-play (yielding a run), Tampa’s the type of team that still sees that as a net game – because the opponent then has to score at least two to beat them.
The Orioles were able to take a 1-0 lead in the top of the fifth when Nick Markakis reached base on an error, and Steve Pearce‘s RBI-double got him home. From that point onward, it was all Gausman and the Oriole bullpen – with one exception. Yunel Escobar sent a deep shot to center field in the last of the seventh, that appeared destined to tie the game at one. However Adam Jones made a leaping catch against the wall for the third out of the inning, saving a home run and preserving the Orioles’ lead.
You never know when you’re going to need an insurance run, so the Birds had no way of knowing that Tampa wouldn’t put nary a run across in the game. So when Nelson Cruz slammed his MLB-leading 22nd homer of the season in the eighth, it was a welcome moment. Backing up just a bit, many fans held their breath when Tommy Hunter came into the game in relief of Gausman in the top of the seventh. However Hunter pitched two innings of shutdown ball, which held the Orioles over until Zach Britton (who provided a 1-2-3 inning) came on for the ninth.
With this win, the O’s took two-of-three in Tampa. Many fans will grouse that they didn’t sweep the series; however keep in mind that if you’re taking two-of-three in any series you’re doing okay. The O’s will have a day off today in New York, however Manny Machado will presumably have his suspension appeal heard as well. It would probably be a good bet that Machado will be out of the lineup starting on Friday against the NY Yankees.
Having said that, the Orioles do feel that they have a legitimate shot at getting at least one game lopped off of the suspension. The league allegedly suspended him four games for the Sunday game vs. Oakland (when he threw the bat), and one game for the altercation in the Friday night game (with Josh Donaldson). Seeing that Machado was never ejected in that spat, it would stand to reason that they might convince the powers-that-be that he shouldn’t face discipline for those actions. We should find out later today.