Perhaps the bar is too low right now. That’s what happens when one of your best pitchers enters the evening with a 6.60 ERA through 16 starts and your rotation as a whole is struggling.
Still, Orioles’ right-hander Kevin Gausman, who has sputtered most of the season, showed some much-needed improvement Wednesday night in a 5-1 loss to the Cleveland Indians.
His fastball command was spot-on for much of the evening and his split-fingered fastball was dipping and diving, allowing Gausman to pick up a season-high nine strikeouts while walking two.
“Kevin was good … I thought his command was better,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “It just looked like he was getting down the mound more confident. That’s a good-hitting club, too, that he gave us a chance (against), especially the first four innings.”
Gausman, who had yielded four or more runs in his past three starts, gave up three in 5 2/3 innings Wednesday. He allowed all of those runs in a three-batter span, getting to two strikes on each hitter before allowing a single, a RBI double and then a two-run homer to Francisco Lindor.
“I’m trying to throw a fastball really high. Every single one of those right there. I had three chances to do it, and I didn’t do it,” Gausman said. “Obviously, these guys are the best in the world for a reason. You make mistakes against them like that, they are going to make you pay for it, especially this lineup.”
Before the fifth, Gausman cruised, retiring 13 of 16. He rebounded by fanning two more to end the fifth, and retired two of three in the sixth, but, at 112 pitches, Showalter pulled him.
He needs to go longer – that has to be the endgame for Gausman. However, it’s hard to fault him for Wednesday’s performance. The results weren’t spectacular, but it stands as one of his better outings in a trying season.
“You take the positives and try to forget the negatives. I think one of the huge positives to take out of this is I’m throwing the ball really good right now,” he said. “Some things kind of went my way tonight. I felt like I was in a lot of 0-1, 0-2 counts. It’s one thing to get to those counts, now I’ve just got to be a little bit better at throwing pitchers’ pitches in those counts rather than pitches that are too good with two strikes.”
Dubious streak continues
The Orioles looked like they might break their dubious streak of allowing five runs or more in 17 games. And then the ninth inning Wednesday happened.
Their shot at history is still alive.
Trailing 3-0 in the ninth, reliever Miguel Castro retired the first batter he faced and then allowed five consecutive singles. Two scored, making it 18 straight games in which the Orioles have allowed five or more runs.
According to baseball-reference.com’s database that goes back to 1913, only one team, the NL’s Philadelphia Phillies in 1924, has endured a longer streak: 20 games. The Orioles hold the AL record at 18 and counting – at least going back as far as 1913.
In those 18 games, a streak that began June 3, the Orioles have been outscored, 133-71. They’ve actually won six of those, strangely.
Castillo not available, bench suffers
With the bases loaded and no outs in the seventh, nasty lefty Andrew Miller was brought in to face the bottom of the Orioles’ lineup. Right-hander Joey Rickard pinch-hit for lefty Hyun Soo Kim and grounded out. Caleb Joseph struck out and then Ruben Tejada pinch-hit for Paul Janish and struck out. The Orioles didn’t score at all in the inning. Craig Gentry pinch-hit for lefty Seth Smith in the eighth, and he also struck out swinging against Miller.
It’s obvious that the Orioles don’t have much of an offensive bench right now. And it was worse because Showalter said he wasn’t going to use catcher Welington Castillo, especially before the ninth. Castillo is dealing with a sore shoulder and Showalter said he didn’t want Castillo to have to catch an inning.
“He needed a day off. I wasn’t going to broadcast it,” Showalter said. “Especially going in to catch. Might have taken a shot at him with (Craig) Gentry there, but not when he had to go in and catch.”
In one sense, you wonder if the Orioles would be better served with a better hitting option on their bench while Chris Davis is injured. At least someone with power, like Pedro Alvarez. But, let’s face it, left-handed-hitting Alvarez’s chances against Miller wouldn’t have been good either. And Showalter likes having Gentry’s speed and defensive ability late in games.
Showalter’s becoming a granddad
Showalter will miss Thursday’s game to be with his daughter, Allie Showalter Robinson, who is scheduled to give birth to a son in Dallas on Thursday morning. It’s her first child and the first grandchild for Showalter and his wife, Angela.
Showalter will meet the team in Tampa on Friday. Bench coach John Russell will serve as the Orioles’ acting manager Thursday against the Indians.