Maybe this was the Real Kevin Gausman. Maybe it wasn’t.
Gausman’s mind-numbing, head-shaking season continued Wednesday with an excellent effort against the Texas Rangers in a 10-2 Orioles’ victory.
The enigmatic 26-year-old allowed just one run – on a solo homer by Joey Gallo – in six impressive innings. He allowed four hits, walked two and struck out eight for his sixth win of the season.
It comes on the heels of his first start of the second half, in which Gausman was tagged for eight runs in three innings Friday against the Chicago Cubs. That was the start after Gausman allowed five runs in four innings at Minnesota. And that one followed two starts in which Gausman threw 12 1/3 scoreless innings versus the division rival Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays.
You get the picture. It’s been a rollercoaster year for the Orioles’ Opening Day starter, whose ERA dropped from 6.39 to 6.11 with Wednesday’s outing.
A 6.11 ERA through 21 starts is obviously unacceptable. But outings like Wednesday’s provide a glimmer of hope – at least when you think about what he did against the Rangers.
“I’m trying to throw my sinker and my four-seam (fastball), mix them up a little bit more. I can’t throw everything straight like my four-seam,” he said. “So, I’m trying to keep the hitters guessing a little bit more and, overall, tonight I just pitched more. You know. Used my off-speed pitches and had good fastball command for the most part.”
What’s so frustrating about Gausman is that the guy has incredible talent. But his pitch location, and occasionally, pitch selection, can be mind-boggling. Hitters have been eliminating parts of the plate and his breaking pitches, and have been sitting on his 97-mph fastball and straight changeup.
So Gausman, with catcher Caleb Joseph, changed it up Wednesday. Gausman got his split-fingered fastball over for strikes. He hit his target with his fastball and slider. And he took some velocity off his fastball on occasion, providing more for the hitter to think about.
“Well, if he was (adjusting his fastball) I’m not going to broadcast that for the next team that he’s going to face,” Oriole manager Buck Showalter said. “But that would be a good take out of the game if I was watching it.”
In a vacuum, Wednesday’s outing by Gausman was highly encouraging. But no one – including Gausman himself – will get too excited until he does this consistently.
Until he pitches a lot more often than he throws.