Orioles right-hander Kevin Gausman picked up another quality start Sunday, his fifth in nine starts this year. He lasted six innings, allowing seven hits, two walks and one run while striking out five.
That’s the good news.
The bad news is pitching well doesn’t necessarily equate with winning games. That’s certainly the case with Gausman.
He’s still winless in those nine starts. Part of that is the responsibility of the Orioles’ offense, which just doesn’t score much when Gausman is on the mound. In seven of his nine starts, the Orioles have scored two runs or fewer at his point of exit. Four times he’s left before the Orioles scored at all.
That’s out of his control. It’s one of those weird stats that happen every year to some starter on just about every team. He’s dealing with that lack of support just fine.
“Obviously, I want to get (his first 2016 win) out of the way, but there’s nothing I can do,” Gausman said. “So I just try to go out there and compete and give my team a chance to win.”
But there is one thing Gausman can do in his pursuit of a victory: Be more efficient with his pitches early so he can pitch deeper (though it wouldn’t have helped Sunday, when the Orioles didn’t score until the bottom of the eighth after a 97-minute rain delay).
In Sunday’s first inning, Gausman faced four batters and threw 21 pitches. That includes nine to Brett Gardner, who fouled off three, two-strike pitches. He threw 37 pitches through two relatively easy innings (eight batters total). And that hurt his chances to go deeper in Sunday’s game because he had to further elevate his pitch count in the fourth when he issued both of his walks, but expertly wiggled out of the jam.
In his last six outings, Gausman hasn’t pitched more than six full innings, yet he has thrown 98 or more pitches in each. Being more efficient is something the 25-year-old is working on – and something that is difficult to accomplish, according to manager Buck Showalter.
“That’s easy for me to say and you to say, but it’s not easy. You got to do some things — you got to move the ball in, you got to move the ball away. They’ve got two or three players that are going to the Hall of Fame,” Showalter said. “A guy gave us six innings of one-run ball. Take that every night … If he wasn’t attacking them the way he was, he may not have made it six innings. He can go six innings and give up six runs and have 80 pitches. I’ll take that (outing Sunday) and the finished product.”
Befuddled by CC
There was a time when big lefty CC Sabathia could do no wrong against the Orioles, winning eight straight starts versus Baltimore from May 2009 to June 2010.
Then there was a time when the Orioles handled Sabathia, not losing to him in a span of eight starts at Camden Yards heading into this season.
Now it looks like the pendulum is swinging back – but slowly, like a mid-80s fastball that has become a staple in Sabathia’s arsenal.
In two starts against the Orioles this year, Sabathia has thrown 12 shutout innings and struck out 11 batters.
He’s no longer the overwhelming force he once was – he walked six on Sunday and was lucky to escape continual trouble – but he seemingly always has had a good pitching acumen. You just may not have known it because he dominated with his stuff. He needs to rely on it now, and give him credit, he is doing so this year – months removed from seeking help for his addiction.
In nine starts this year, the 35-year-old now has a 2.58 ERA. It’s a pretty good story.
Oh, and the Orioles helped him out plenty Sunday afternoon, too, by getting a runner on base every inning but the first, yet failing to score at all. Mark Trumbo was particularly befuddled, striking out three times on three pitches each, including twice with the bases loaded to end the inning.
Lee to the minor league DL
Lefty Chris Lee, who is arguably the organization’s best pitching prospect, was placed on the disabled list at Double-A Bowie Sunday. Although Bowie listed the injury as shoulder, it’s actually a strain of the lat muscle in the upper part of his back.
So the organization has no structural concerns right now about Lee’s shoulder.
Whenever it’s mentioned that an Oriole pitching prospect has been shelved, the complaints come pouring in about how it happens too often. Truth is, pitchers get hurt in every organization. That’s nature of the beast; it’s just the Orioles have had a lot of higher-profile injuries in the minors in recent years (Dylan Bundy, Hunter Harvey, Matt Hobgood, Branden Kline).
The Orioles are traditionally pretty careful with their prospects. In Lee’s instance, the organization skipped his last start because of shoulder fatigue and then disabled him once the lat strain was discovered. That careful handling makes sense.
The thought in these situations is to shut down a guy for a little bit now so he doesn’t do anything more damaging while compensating for the muscle strain. And the Orioles have reason to take it easy with the 23-year-old Lee. He is 5-0 with a 2.98 ERA in eight games (seven starts) this season for Bowie.
Wright starts Monday
It’s been a weird week for Mike Wright. He gave up four homers to Boston on Wednesday, was sent to the minors on Thursday, was brought back up on Friday because of Darren O’Day’s injury and now starts again Monday versus the defending World Champion Kansas City Royals in the spot he had vacated.
The beauty of baseball: In a long season, strange things happen. And so it wouldn’t be outlandish to think Wright rebounds and pitches well. But it’s baseball. We’ll see.