Kevin Gausman had allowed just three home runs in his first six starts this year spanning 36 2/3 innings. In his last two games and 11 innings, the 25-year-old right-hander has served up six homers.
What gives? What’s changed?
Gausman has a theory. It’s a simple one. He’s not throwing strikes early – in the count or the game, for that matter – and falling behind is getting him in trouble, especially when he doesn’t make a good pitch and the hitter is waiting on a strike.
Consider that of the six homers he has allowed in the last two games, four came with him behind in the count; three of those were when he hadn’t yet thrown a strike to that particular batter.
“I think it kind of all stems with my mechanics,” Gausman said of the recent home-run barrage against him. “I think I was kind of leaking a little bit early and leaving some balls that were running back over the plate. … You get in so many 2-0, 2-1 hitters’ counts, you try to throw a strike right there.”
He was down 1-0 to Mookie Betts and was knotted at 1-1 with Dustin Pedroia in the first when Gausman became the first Orioles’ pitcher since Rodrigo Lopez in 2006 (at Toronto) to start a game by allowing back-to-back homers.
Betts’ second homer against Gausman – and second of three Betts hit on Tuesday – was on a 2-0 count. The three Gausman allowed last week at Houston were on a 1-0 count, a 2-2 count and a full count.
There’s also something to be said about coming out throwing strikes early. Gausman has now allowed a first-inning home run to the opposition’s leadoff hitter in consecutive games. Five of his last six homers occurred in the first or second innings.
We all know what happens in the summer at Camden Yards. The weather gets muggy and the ball begins to really carry. Gausman can pitch in the majors, no doubt. Not allowing a run after the second inning Tuesday and lasting six innings showed something.
But keeping the ball down – and having command of his fastball – will be the separator between being a good starter and a really good one this year.
Davis’ blast ruled foul – but not by Buck
Who knows what would have happened if Chris Davis had homered in the eighth inning to get the Orioles within two runs at 6-4. But his blast to right above the foul pole was ruled foul by first base umpire Doug Eddings.
The umpires reviewed the call and it stood – though Orioles manager Buck Showalter said he saw a replay where the ball was definitely fair.
“Chris hits a home run and we can’t get a camera angle that will show it. We finally got one that showed it was fair,” Showalter said. “I think everybody knew it was probably fair, but if they had called it fair they wouldn’t have overturned it.”
In other words, the video was too inconclusive to overturn the call, no matter which way it was originally ruled. That happens.
The real difference Tuesday was that the Orioles were in a 5-0 hole by the second inning.
Eduardo’s back at the Yards
Boston lefty Eduardo Rodriguez made his 2016 debut after spending roughly the first two months of the season on the disabled list with a right knee injury.
You remember Rodriguez?
He was one of the organization’s top prospects, but was dealt away in July 2014 for lefty reliever Andrew Miller, who helped the Orioles reach the playoffs and beat the Detroit Tigers in the American League Division Series (if the Orioles hadn’t pulled the trigger and dealt Rodriguez, the Tigers likely would have acquired Miller for their bullpen).
Rodriguez seemingly teases Orioles fans when he pitches at Camden Yards. He’s pitched here three times for Boston and has a 1.56 ERA in 17 1/3 innings while striking out 19. Tuesday was his first victory against his old team.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Rodriguez may end up as a star – and the Orioles have no left-handed starting pitchers – but I’d still make the Miller deal. Miller solidified a great Orioles’ bullpen and helped them get to the postseason and win a series.
It showed the fan base that the club was willing to make a real push. Yes, they didn’t get to or win the World Series, but sometimes making the effort is important, too.
Check back with me in a couple years when Rodriguez wins the AL Cy Young, and I’ll probably have changed my mind.
Machado and Trumbo with big All Star numbers
The first AL All-Star voting numbers came out Tuesday, and two Orioles will be starters if everything holds – which of course it won’t. These votes always fluctuate from the first week to the last.
But for now, Manny Machado leads all AL third basemen with 630,028 votes, ahead of injured Kansas City third baseman Mike Moustakas. You’d think Machado is a pretty safe bet, even though he is now playing shortstop.
Orioles right fielder Mark Trumbo is currently third in the AL for outfielders – the first three will be named starters – with 641,594 votes. He’s behind Los Angeles Angels’ Mike Trout (934,137) and Kansas City’s Lorenzo Cain (647,339). Trumbo is ahead of Boston’s Jackie Bradley Jr., (554,887) among others.
Adam Jones is ninth and Joey Rickard is 14th in outfield voting. Chris Davis (first base) and Matt Wieters (catcher) are third in the early voting while the injured J.J. Hardy (shortstop) and Jonathan Schoop (second base) are fifth.
Trumbo was asked about those early results. You will like his answer.
“Obviously, it’s a good sign, but not something I’m going to waste too much time thinking about,” he said. “Really, it doesn’t mean anything right now other than that things at the current state are checking out. But, as far as bigger goals, it’s got to be to keep winning these ballgames.”