Buck Showalter is not singling out right-hander Kevin Gausman.
The way the Orioles manager has to view it – certainly publicly – is that the entire club had to step up and perform better with right-hander Chris Tillman shelved with a shoulder injury.
Showalter has three veteran starters, Yovani Gallardo, Wade Miley and Ubaldo Jimenez, who have to be better in this stretch run. And the club needs rookie sensation Dylan Bundy to keep cruising along like he has had this kind of success in the majors before.
All of that’s true.
But if there is one pitcher that could set the example in Tillman’s absence – or needed to set that example — it’s Gausman.
It’s time for the fourth pick overall in the 2012 draft to meet those lofty expectations. It’s his fourth season pitching in the majors. He’ll be 26 in January.
And Gausman has answered that challenge better than anyone could have imagined.
He allowed no runs in six innings against the Washington Nationals on Aug. 23; after that game it was officially announced that Tillman would be placed on the 15-day disabled list, something that appeared to be a certainty that week.
On Sunday in New York, Gausman threw seven scoreless innings. And Saturday night he blanked the Yankees again in six innings at Camden Yards.
“I’ve just been a little bit frustrated, until about a month ago, with how my season’s been going. I felt like I was pitching great and things just didn’t go my way. Now, it’s kind of on the other side, the other flip side of it,” Gausman said. “I’m just confident, feeling good. I think this is the first time I’ve got into August and September and felt this good physically with this amount of innings under my belt. I think that also has something to do with it, too.”
In his last three outings, all wins, Gausman has allowed 15 hits and four walks while striking out 19 batters in 19 innings. He’s had tremendous control in those games, and his split-fingered fastball has been baffling, especially to left-handed hitters. He’s really been rough on the Yankees, allowing just three runs in five quality starts this year.
“Kevin’s a good pitcher. He’s had a great look in his eye for about a month. Not that he hasn’t before,” Showalter said. “It’s just there’s a real driven look and presence about him. Felt like he’s really kind of hit his stride.”
It’s come at the perfect time: Late in the season with the club’s most reliable starter on the disabled list. Maybe that’s coincidence. Maybe Gausman would have hit this run regardless.
But the fact that he is pitching this way with Tillman, who is scheduled to return next Sunday in Detroit, not currently in the rotation is particularly crucial.
Showalter may not say it. But you know he – like most of us – is thinking it.
“We all want to step up. We all want to be that ace, and if you don’t, I don’t know what your goal is then. We’re all trying to go out and throw shutouts every night we go out there,” Gausman said. “Every time I take the mound I’m thinking of throwing a complete game. You just kind of have to have that attitude, especially with Tilly being down. We know we have one less guy that’s going to be a big innings-eater for us and has been for a lot of years. So we know we have to step up and compete, especially this time of the year.”