This was the Kevin Gausman that everyone has been expecting this season.
This was the Kevin Gausman that Kevin Gausman was expecting, too.
“Top to bottom with the lineup, it’s tough and I knew I was really going to have to pitch tonight,” Gausman said. “I pitched better today than I have this whole season.”
On Monday night, the Orioles’ right-hander delivered – without a doubt – his best performance of 2017 in a 6-4 victory over the Washington Nationals.
He allowed two runs on five hits and a walk while striking out a season-high eight batters in a season-long seven innings. He threw 116 pitches – 77 strikes – mixing in a killer split-fingered fastball with several other sharp pitches. Orioles manager Buck Showalter sent him back to the mound for the seventh even though Gausman already had thrown 105 pitches. He was that good.
“Really good command of the fastball tonight,” Showalter said. “Really elevated when he needed to and wanted to. That’s a hard lineup to go through and that was impressive.”
Gausman was great from the start, retiring the first 10 batters he faced before a one-out single in the fourth by Washington’s Jayson Werth.
The Orioles’ Opening Day starter, Gausman entered the night 1-3 with an unsightly 7.55 ERA. He had lost his last three decisions, including Wednesday in Boston when he was ejected in the second inning after an errant curveball plunked Xander Bogaerts.
He was irate that he was tossed in that game – home plate umpire Sam Holbrook clearly over-reacted while guarding against a potential continuation of a beanball war between the two sides – and he seemed to channel that energy Monday.
“Really, the last start I was motivated, too. Felt like my stuff has been good, I’ve just been putting too many guys on base,” he said. “So, that was kind of one thing going into tonight that I wanted to do was pound the strike zone and get ahead of these guys. Hopefully, that gives me a little extra confidence going into the next one.”
The Orioles are now 21-10, somehow, without Gausman being the pitcher he can be. We saw that potential for most of the 2016 second half. We saw it Monday night.
And if that continues, well, so should the Orioles’ strong start of this year.