Gaus­man out­du­els Hamels as O’s out­last Rangers Bal­ti­more emerges vic­to­ri­ous in bat­tle of first-place teams

Cecil Whig - - NATIONAL SPORTS - By JOR­DAN SCHATZ

jschatz@ce­cil­whig.com

— 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

BAL­TI­MORE

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

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY JOR­DAN SCHATZ

Start­ing pitcher Kevin Gaus­man and the Bal­ti­more Ori­oles de­feated the vis­it­ing Texas Rangers 3-2 at Cam­den Yards on Wed­nes­day.

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