Aug 17, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Kevin Gausman (39) delivers in the second inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Baltimore Orioles: Starting Off Right

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Kevin Gausman turned in another impressive outing today as the Orioles beat the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field 4-1.

The Orioles, in need of a win, turned to an up-and-coming stopper to salvage one game from their three game series with the Tribe. In response, Gausman pitched his fourth quality start in his last five games.

Over six complete innings, Gausman gave up two hits and one earned run, out-dueling Indians starter Danny Salazar.

Gausman continues to prove that he has the best stuff and the most raw talent on the starting staff right now. His splitter is a filthy weapon against left-handed hitters with its low and away fade. His fastball touches 97 or 98 mph. His ERA (3.70) is virtually equivalent to Chris Tillman’s (3.68), the lowest among Oriole starters.

By the end of the season, could Gausman be in-line to pitch game one of the American League Division Series?

OK — probably not.

But that’s not because Gausman hasn’t proven adequate for the role. If others haven’t been on an even stronger roll than the prized LSU product, Gausman would be under consideration.

However, the Orioles have been fortunate enough to have a few pitchers emerge in the second half of the season. As a team, the Orioles’ ERA dropped from 3.84 before the All-Star break to 3.02 after it.

Tillman leads the way in the ERA improvement among starters, pitching to a 4.11 ERA prior to the break and a 2.35 ERA afterwards. Wei-Yin Chen isn’t far behind, posting a 4.15 ERA in the unofficial first half and a 2.51 ERA in the second.

If the current trend continues, Tillman and Chen would likely pitch the first two games of a possible playoff series with Gausman and Bud Norris likely slotted for the third and fourth in some order.

Nevermind the struggling Ubaldo Jimenez.

In the meantime, the starters will need to continue their post-All-Star break performance for the Orioles to maintain their comfortable lead over the Yankees and Blue Jays in the A.L. East.

Tomorrow, Bud Norris (10-7, 3.75 ERA) is charged with the challenge of keeping his team competitive against a Cy Young candidate.

Just like the Orioles ran into the toughest pitcher on a mediocre team with the Indians’ Cory Kluber, the Birds will face Chris Sale of the White Sox to begin their three game set tomorrow.

No one said this was going to be easy.

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