Gausman outduels Hamels as O’s outlast Rangers Baltimore emerges victorious in battle of first-place teams
— If the Baltimore Orioles and Texas Rangers eventually meet in the postseason, Wednesday’s contest between the two first-place teams might very well be a precursor for what could unfold in October.
Both starting pitchers settled down after stumbling early against a pair of potent lineups as Kevin Gausman outdueled American League Cy Young candidate Cole Hamels to deliver the Orioles a series-clinching 3-2 victory before an announced 24,552 at Camden Yards.
“I think the step up comes from our pitcher. You know those [pitchers], runs are going to be at a premium,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “You can give in to what conventionality says it should be like or you can compete and look at it like an opportunity to present yourself real well to your team and to the opposition in one that may not look good on paper.”
After designated hitter Carlos Beltran—acquired from the New York Yankees during Monday’s trade deadline—connected for a solo home run to give the Rangers an early lead in the top of the first, the Orioles (61-45) wasted little time responding in the bottom of the frame. Baltimore pounced on the left-handed Hamels (12-3) for three runs in the bottom of the first, sending eight men to the plate and finding the scoreboard against a pitcher who entered having allowed just four first-inning runs in
his previous 21 starts combined.
After Jonathan Schoop singled and Manny Machado doubled to put runners in scoring position with one out, Mark Trumbo grounded into an RBI fielder’s choice to tie the game. Then, after Chris Davis and Steve Pearce both drew walks, catcher Matt Wieters came through with a tworun single to center field.
Pearce, brought in by the Orioles in a deadline deal with the Tampa Bay Rays, began the night hitting .377 against left-handed pitching. The three-game series marked a return to Camden Yards for Pearce, who spent the previous two seasons with Baltimore.
“Pearce had a great at-bat in front of me. Stevie laid off some good changeups and it freed me so I knew Hamels was going to come after me a little bit,” Wieters said. “I waited until I got a fastball down the middle and hit it through.”
The Rangers (62-46) needed only two batters in the second inning to pull within a run, as Rougned Odor (2-for-3) doubled and scored on a single by Jonathan Lucroy, another trade-deadline acquisition. Gausman then issued a walk to the next batter, Nomar Mazara, before retiring the next three batters to escape with his narrow lead still intact.
Gausman (3-8) needed 35 pitches to get out of the second inning.
“That’s what [Orioles pitching coach Dave Wallace] and I were talking about when the game ended. That was probably the key to the game,” Showalter said. “He bent but didn’t break and it showed a lot of moxy in that inning to get through there. It’s that time of year where your individual stuff kind of goes away and you’re trying to keep your team engaged.”
The hard-throwing right-hander then found his groove, firing five scoreless innings to depart having allowed just two earned runs on seven hits and one walk with seven strikeouts.
He had little room for error as his counterpart matched him frame for frame.
Hamels suffered a tough-luck loss, surrendering just the three runs on four hits and four walks with eight strikeouts.
Between the third and seventh innings, both starters combined to retire 28 of the next 34 batters as the teams managed just five hits and two walks over that span.
“He’s one of the best starting pitchers in the game and for good reason. He’s been great really his whole career,” Gausman said of Hamels. “When the guys put up three on him I knew that probably wasn’t going to happen again. Runs are at a premium in games like this and you knew that he was going to lock it down and throw up some [zeros] for them, so I just tried to do the same thing.”
Showalter then turned to the Orioles bullpen in the final two innings, as Darren O’Day pitched a perfect eighth inning for the hold, while closer Zach Britton earned his 33rd consecutive save when he produced a scoreless ninth.
Against Britton, Odor reached base on a one-out walk. Then, with Lucroy at the plate, he attempted to advance to second on a pitch that got away from Wieters, but the Orioles’ catcher bounced from the box and fired to the second baseman, Schoop, who applied the tag on a close play.
Britton then forced Lucroy to pop out to Schoop to end the game.
“With Odor, I know that he is an aggressive runner so I didn’t have to check to see if he was going, I just kind of assumed he was going,” Wieters said. “I just spun and the ball just happened to come out good right to second base.”
With the win, the Eastern Division-leading Orioles passed the Western Division-leading Rangers (62-46) for the best record in the American League.
Follow Jordan Schatz on Twitter: @Jordan_Whig
Starting pitcher Kevin Gausman and the Baltimore Orioles defeated the visiting Texas Rangers 3-2 at Camden Yards on Wednesday.