Gaus­man bril­liant

Eight score­less in­nings, Trumbo’s homer cut AL East gap to 1 game

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Ed­uardo A. Encina

BOS­TON — Ori­oles right-han­der Kevin Gaus­man spent the first half of this sea­son an­swer­ing queries about poor run sup­port, his road los­ing streak and a win-loss record that didn’t fairly in­di­cate how well he had pitched.

Now, Gaus­man has put all those ques­tions be­hind him, hav­ing emerged as the Ori­oles’ top start­ing pitcher as his team grinds through a pen­nant race.

On Wed­nes­day night, he was matched up against Amer­i­can League Cy Young Award can­di­date Rick Por­cello, who won his 20th game of the sea­son Fri­day and was 13-0 this year at Fen­way Park.

But the 25-year-old right-han­der bested Por­cello, pitch­ing eight master­ful score­less in­nings to lead the Ori­oles to a 1-0 vic­tory over the di­vi­sion-lead­ing Bos­ton Red Sox on Wed­nes­day night in front of an an­nounced sell­out of 37,973.

Gaus­man (8-10) al­lowed just five base run­ners on four sin­gles and a walk; a sixth reached on a field­ing er­ror by Matt Wi­eters in the first. Gaus­man threw a first-pitch strike to 21 of the 29 bat­ters he faced.

Four of his past five starts have been score­less out­ings of at least six in­nings. Over that span, Gaus­man’s ERA is a mi­nus­cule 0.82, as he has al­lowed just three runs over 33 in­nings.

“Ev­ery year I’ve al­ways got­ten bet­ter as the year has gone on, but this year it’s kind of all click­ing for me,” Gaus­man said. “I AL EAST STAND­INGS W-L 81-64 80-65 79-66 77-68 62-83 Bos­ton Ori­oles Toronto New York Tampa Bay GB — 1 2 4 19

think I’m read­ing hit­ters’ swings a lit­tle bit more and I think my rhythm is a lot bet­ter, too. I think some­times I’ll get in the mood of shaking off too many pitches and right now I’m kind of locked in and get­ting the ball go­ing.”

With the win, the Ori­oles (8065) fin­ished their nine-game road trip against the Tampa Bay Rays, Detroit Tigers and Red Sox with a 6-3 record, win­ning all three se­ries of a road trip for the first time this sea­son.

“Kevin knew he was go­ing to have to be on top of his game,” Ori­oles man­ager Buck Showal­ter said. “Por­cello’s hav­ing a great year and he’s go­ing to be an­other Cy Young can­di­date that we’ve seen a lot of them on this road trip. … I think [Gaus­man threw] a lot of qual­ity strikes with the fast­ball. I think Kevin and Dy­lan [Bundy] both re­al­ize it’s one thing to have a good fast­ball, but poorly lo­cated fast­balls get whacked up here. Both sides of the plate were there for him and Matt knew when to slow him down a lit­tle bit. You could see his tempo and just the way he was go­ing about his busi­ness that he had a real con­fi­dent front.”

The Ori­oles trail the Red Sox by one game in the Amer­i­can League East and have sole pos­ses­sion of the first of two AL wild cards, lead­ing the Toronto Blue Jays by one game.

The only run the Ori­oles needed came on Mark Trumbo’s home­run off Por­cello to open the sec­ond in­ning. It was his ma­jor league­lead­ing 42nd homer of the sea­son.

Gaus­man’s re­cent dom­i­nance has been mainly against fel­low AL play­off con­tenders. He had backto-back score­less out­ings against the New York Yankees, fol­lowed by a six-in­ning, three-run qual­ity start against the Tigers be­fore he dom­i­nated a Bos­ton lineup that leads base­ball in most of­fen­sive cat­e­gories.

“This is a guy with big-time stuff that’s re­ally com­ing into his own,” Trumbo said. “Com­mand is ob­vi­ously huge. He was ahead of vir­tu­ally ev­ery hit­ter over there, and from ex­pe­ri­ence, when guys are con­stantly get­ting strike one on you, those are the types of games that can re­sult like his where he was go­ing out there and hav­ing tremen­dous suc­cess.”

Gaus­man opened the sea­son los­ing his first five de­ci­sions and seven of his first eight, but still had a re­spectable 4.05 ERA through 16 starts. He went through frus­trat­ing times when he showed flashes of bril­liance, but be­came un­rav­eled by one or two bad pitches. Gaus­man went through 25 straight con­sec­u­tive road starts with­out a win, a streak that dated to 2014 and ended Aug. 28 in New York. For no par­tic­u­lar rea­son, the Ori­oles strug­gled to score when he was on the mound.

But now, he has taken cir­cum­stance out of the equa­tion. The Ori­oles are just 5-33 when scor­ing two runs or fewer this sea­son. Three of those wins were started by Gaus­man, in­clud­ing two in his past three starts.

“Even when all of that was hap­pen­ing,” Gaus­man said, “I knew that there was re­ally noth­ing I could re­ally con­trol. I pitched great at home and was try­ing to fig­ure it out on the road. I feel like I’m pitch­ing my best right now, so that’s good.”

Gaus­man didn’t al­low a hit Wed­nes­day un­til Mookie Betts’ two-out sin­gle in the fourth in­ning, and he didn’t let a run­ner reach scor­ing po­si­tion un­til the sev­enth.

He was helped by sparkling de­fense. Third base­man Manny Machado made a slid­ing, spin­ning snag of Betts’ one-hop­per to end the first in­ning, and short­stop J.J. Hardy made a nice run­ning play on Xan­der Bo­gaerts’ grounder in the sixth, ben­e­fit­ing from a short­hop scoop from Chris Davis at first to com­plete the play.

Bos­ton’s big­gest threat against Gaus­man came in the sev­enth, when the Red Sox put run­ners at the corners with two outs. But he ended the in­ning by strik­ing out catcher Sandy Leon on three pitches.

“You re­ally have to take a step back and re­ally think about what you’re go­ing to throw,” Gaus­man said. “I felt like I had him sped up, so I de­cided to go with the split-fin­ger and it was prob­a­bly one of the best ones I threw all night. To come up big in those sit­u­a­tions, I feel like in the past, last year I some­how let that game get away from me, whether it’s a ground ball up the mid­dle or a lit­tle bloop hit. I just tried to be a stopper to­day.”

CHARLES KRUPA/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Kevin Gaus­man, de­liv­er­ing a first-in­ning pitch, al­lowed four sin­gles and a walk in eight in­nings be­fore giv­ing way to All-Star closer Zach Brit­ton for the ninth in­ning. Gaus­man has a 0.82 ERA over his past five starts, and the Ori­oles fin­ished their three-city trip 6-3.

CHARLES KRUPA/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Kevin Gaus­man cov­ers first base on a ground­out by the Red Sox’s Dustin Pe­droia. Four of Gaus­man’s past five starts have been score­less.

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