O’S 5, YAN­KEES 0:

Gaus­man posts 2nd straight score­less start

Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By Jon Me­oli

Mark Trumbo, above, hit his league-lead­ing 40th home run of the sea­son, help­ing the Orioles avoid a sweep by NewYork at Yan­kee Sta­dium. Steve Pearce drove in three runs on three hits, and Kevin Gaus­man got the win.

NEW YORK — So much has been made this sea­son about the dents in Kevin Gaus­man’s re­sume, from his strug­gles on the road to the Orioles’ lack of of­fense when he’s on the mound, that his growth into the re­li­able, front-end starter on dis­play Sun­day in the Bronx hasn’t got­ten the proper at­ten­tion.

Gaus­man put all those prob­lems aside Sun­day, throw­ing seven score­less in­nings in a 5-0 win over the New York Yan­kees that marked his sec­ond straight start with­out al­low­ing a run and cap­ping the best month of his ca­reer with what might have been his best day of the sea­son.

“That’s about as good as I’ve seen him,” Orioles man­ager Buck Showal­ter said. “He had re­ally good com­mand of his fast­ball and both off-speed pitches. Matt [Wi­eters] did a great job of, I call it, ‘rock­ing the boat’ back and forth and not let­ting them sit on any­thing. He could have continued and will in the fu­ture.”

Gaus­man struck out nine bat­ters and scat­tered seven hits with­out a walk to lower his ERA to 3.73. He man­aged all of that against a Yan­kees lineup that scored a com­bined 27 runs Fri­day and Satur­day, and he did it in spite of the nit­pick­ing that has stolen the fo­cus from what could be a breakout stretch for the 25-year-old for­mer first-round pick.

He needed 22 pitches to get through a score­less first in­ning, strik­ing out two but stok­ing con­cerns that he might not get as deep into the game as he hoped. That, Gaus­man said, was his main fo­cus.

“My goal was just to go deep in the game, whether I got beat up or not,”

Gaus­man said. “I wanted to go seven and give those guys a break out there.”

That was ac­com­plished by throw­ing 108 pitches in seven ster­ling in­nings. He got more ef­fi­cient as the day went on, win­ning the kind of two-strike bat­tles that have frus­trated him at times this sea­son and pick­ing up three strike­outs apiece with his fast­ball, curve­ball and split-fin­gered fast­ball.

By the time he left in the sev­enth, the Orioles had scored five runs, an­other big out­put re­vers­ing a trend of low run sup­port that was easy to ob­sess over ear­lier in the sea­son. He’d al­low two runs, the Orioles would score one and lose. He’d al­low three runs, and the Orioles would score two and lose.

Gaus­man of­ten was made to an­swer for that — along with his string of 25 road starts dat­ing to Au­gust 17, 2014, with­out a vic­tory — this year.

“It’s been kind of an­noy­ing to hear,” Gaus­man said.

“You get the ball, every fifth day, you pitch well, and those things work out,” Showal­ter said. “That’s for peo­ple that equate a guy’s com­plete eval­u­a­tion with a ‘W,’ and that’s tough on start­ing pitch­ers.”

Since the cal­en­dar turned to Au­gust, Gaus­man has shed some of those la­bels and grown into the re­li­able, front-end starter the Orioles se­lected him to be.

He had it all Sun­day — easy ve­loc­ity, an ef­fec­tive break­ing ball, swing-and-miss split­ters.

“I was able to throw all my pitches for strikes, and then for chase when I wanted to,” Gaus­man said. “I feel like when I can do that, it’s go­ing to be a lot eas­ier for me to get qual­ity starts and go deep into the game.”

Af­ter his last start Aug. 23, the day the Orioles learned they’d be with­out top starter Chris Till­man (shoul­der) for at least two weeks, Gaus­man chal­lenged him­self to be that kind of ace in his place. That meant long starts that save the bullpen, win­ning when things seem to be spi­ral­ing the other way and, of course, post­ing those ze­ros.

“I was just try­ing to go out there and be a stop­per to­day,” Gaus­man said.

His start Sun­day wrapped up what was the best sta­tis­ti­cal month of his ca­reer. He en­tered Au­gust hop­ing to erase the taste of a dis­as­trous start in Toronto, then posted a 2.45 ERA with 41 strike­outs in 362⁄3 Au­gust in­nings.

If he backs that up with a stand­out Septem­ber, two things will hap­pen: The Orioles will have a good chance to keep their ten­u­ous hold on a post­sea­son spot, and Gaus­man will re­al­ize his po­ten­tial as a front-line start­ing pitcher. Days like Sun­day, and months like Au­gust, show it’s possible.

“He’s a stud,” said the newly signed Tommy Hunter, who re­turned Sun­day to the Orioles. “You would like to see it every sin­gle time, but base­ball doesn’t re­ally turn out that way. He’s a very tal­ented young man. He did a fab­u­lous job. He did what he’s sup­posed to do. He’s got more tal­ent than I’ve seen in a long time. For him to go out there and do that and step up on a day game af­ter two losses, that’s what you’re sup­posed to get from a guy like him.”

RICH SCHULTZ/GETTY IM­AGES

RICH SCHULTZ/GETTY IM­AGES

Kevin Gaus­man struck out nine Yan­kees on Sun­day and gave up no walks and no runs in seven in­nings, end­ing the Orioles’ los­ing streak at three games. “My goal was just to go deep in the game, whether I got beat up or not,” Gaus­man said

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