TORONTO -- Kevin Gausman gave the Orioles exactly what they needed in their series opener against the Blue Jays on Tuesday, but the timing of this outing was especially valuable to a pitching staff that's been searching for answers.Baltimore's rotation entered this series with the highest ERA in the American
TORONTO -- Kevin Gausman gave the Orioles exactly what they needed in their series opener against the Blue Jays on Tuesday, but the timing of this outing was especially valuable to a pitching staff that's been searching for answers.
Baltimore's rotation entered this series with the highest ERA in the American League at 5.78 -- nearly a full run higher than the next closest team -- and have pitched the fewest innings as a group. One key for Gausman in bucking that trend was working with a full tank thanks to an extra day of rest.
"The biggest thing is, you feel better than you do pitching on [four] days rest," Gausman said after the 3-1 win. "Sometimes you've got to be able to pull back the horse, grab onto the reins and dial it back."
With 5 1/3 clean innings, Gausman recorded his first scoreless outing since September of last season and is confident that some recent changes will help him to sustain Tuesday's success.
"Moving over a little bit on the rubber has made it easier for me to hit down and away to a right-handed hitter," Gausman said. "That's obviously huge. Also, just pitching more, not being primarily a fastball pitcher. That was one thing that I felt like, early in the season, I got way too fastball-happy in some counts where I should probably be pitching in those counts."
The start wasn't flawless, as Gausman did work into some deep counts, with the Blue Jays' hitters fouling off plenty of pitches. The 26-year-old stepped up by finding his way out of the tight spots, though, including a key double play in the bottom of the first inning just after Baltimore had taken a 2-0 lead.
"There were a lot of 3-2 counts, but he made that pitch," said manager Buck Showalter. "There's such a fine line between a good outing and a challenging outing."
Gausman had topped 100 pitches in six of his last seven starts and hit 99 Tuesday, so he recognizes that getting ahead in the count needs to be a priority if he hopes to be part of a bigger turnaround for this rotation.
"That's one thing I'm trying to be better at," Gausman said. "Really, for all of us starters, it's first-pitch strikes. I tried to do that today and obviously they fouled off a lot of pitches, but you've got to give credit to them [for] battling."
The context of the American League East and AL Wild Card standings also factor in to the importance of Gausman's start. Despite Baltimore's struggles on the mound, they've managed to stay at .500 (38-38), which has kept them in the middle of two very tight races.
Keegan Matheson is a reporter for MLB.com based in Toronto.