Let me paint you a picture. The Orioles have Jacob Webb and Yennier Cano unavailable in the bullpen. Danny Coulombe was just activated off the IL and hasn't pitched in a bit. Shintaro Fujinami has been a Jekyll and Hyde pitcher with the Orioles. They need someone to eat up innings and provide a strong start.
Well, that's exactly the situation that the Orioles were facing on Thursday night against the Toronto Blue Jays, with the series on the line. So Kyle Gibson went out and delivered, pitching eight innings as the Orioles beat the Blue Jays 5-3 to win the game and the series, with a 10-3 record against them this season.
Thursday night was a peak Kyle Gibson performance, bailing out a bullpen stretched thin. Only Félix Bautista was used in relief, nailing down the win with his 33rd save of the season. Thursday night showed exactly why the Orioles signed Kyle Gibson, and why he's been pivotal to the rotation.
Kyle Gibson showed his worth to the Orioles rotation on Thursday night
Widely viewed as the replacement for Jordan Lyles when he was signed in the offseason, Gibson is a veteran pitcher who limits the walks and does a fantastic job of eating innings. He has done a great job of all three this season.
With the Orioles, he's averaged 2.6 walks per nine and sits in the 69th percentile in walk percentage, doing a good job of limiting walks. A 17th percentile ranking in hard hit percentage and 38th percentile ranking in average exit velocity shows his struggles in limiting hard contact, but with 0.9 home runs per nine, it hasn't bit him bad yet.
The real strong quality is the ability to throw a lot of innings. He's thrown 158 1/3 innings, leading the Orioles pitching staff considerably. Dean Kremer is second with 144 innings, and Kyle Bradish is third with 127 2/3. Jack Flaherty, who has 123 2/3 innings on the season and only 14 with the Orioles, ranks fourth.
With a short bullpen on Thursday night, Gibson recorded an out in the eighth inning for the first time this season. He did better than that, retiring the side in the eighth to keep the Orioles ahead, departing with 95 pitches.
The final box score didn't jump off the page, as Gibson allowed three runs on six hits, one walk, and eight strikeouts, but keeping his pitch count low with three incredibly efficient innings to start the game allowed him to go into the eighth inning and save the bullpen despite allowing those three runs.
After the game, Brandon Hyde called this game Gibson's best of the year. Having thrown at least seven innings five times this year entering Thursday, Gibson has now done that six times, earning his 13th win of the season. While not valued the same anymore, and deservedly so, Gibson is now tied with Zach Eflin of the Tampa Bay Rays for the AL lead in wins, with Gibson having made three more starts.
With no Orioles starter having exceeded 7 1/3 innings before Thursday, Gibson decided to become the first as the Orioles also recorded their 38th comeback win of the season. Having gone the last 11 series against AL East opponents without a series loss for the first time since 2012, Gibson has been a big reason why. He's been worth the money they spent on him.