Gausman, Blue Jays bested by Orioles' powerful lineup

June 4th, 2024

TORONTO -- It felt like the Blue Jays’ outfielders spent the whole night running back to the wall.

When the Orioles weren’t hitting home runs, they were scaring the Blue Jays with deep fly balls to the warning track. Over and over, one of baseball’s most powerful lineups made the type of contact that forced a nervous “Oh…” from the Rogers Centre crowd.

has pitched so well lately. After a slow start to the season, the ace had been resurrected with a 2.60 ERA over his last eight starts, but the Orioles can do this to anyone. Monday’s 7-2 loss was a harsh reminder that, beyond the steep hill the Blue Jays must climb to compete for a postseason spot, there’s an even steeper one to hang with baseball’s best.

“They’re a good team. I don’t want to sit here and say they’re the ’27 Yankees. They’re not that good, but they’re a really good team,” manager John Schneider said. “When you navigate the top, they’re still big league hitters and they’re good big league hitters. I’m not taking credit away from them. They’ve done a lot of really good things with their young players and the guys who have been there, but still, you have to execute and navigate every single hitter. A good night from [Austin] Hays and [Anthony] Santander. That’s how they’re built. They’re built to do damage.”

At the end of his remarks, Schneider circled back to make it clear that he doesn’t want to take anything away from the O’s with that comment. That’s not his point. This is more about framing them as an opponent for his own team. The O’s aren’t unbeatable, even if it felt that way at times Monday as the balls soared.

Baltimore’s 88 home runs are second in baseball this season behind only the Yankees -- welcome to the AL East -- while the Blue Jays sit 25th in the league with just 51. Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s sixth blast of the season gave the Blue Jays a quick taste of life on his own bobblehead night, but the Orioles’ attack was just so relentless -- they launched four homers on a night they could have hit twice as many.

Just look at the top of these lineups. After Guerrero’s homer scorched over the wall in center, the top four hitters in the Blue Jays’ lineup -- including Davis Schneider, Danny Jansen, Vladdy and Daniel Vogelbach -- have combined to hit 19 home runs. Gunnar Henderson, the O’s leadoff hitter who looks like he’ll spend the next decade getting MVP votes, has already hit 19 himself.

“They do damage,” John Schneider reiterated. “You have to try to avoid it and try to pitch to weak contact against these guys instead of trying to strike them out because they’re not going to give in. I thought they had a good approach against Kev.”

Gausman isn’t just a good pitcher, he’s a smart one. He has the ability to understand there are days when he has good stuff but doesn’t get good results. It’s easy to trust him on that, too, because he’s just as willing to say he got lucky after a good outing when he didn’t feel his sharpest.

The right-hander loved how he felt on the mound, but the O’s leave so little room for error. There’s nowhere to hide against them.

“That’s one of the most frustrating things about today. My stuff is a lot better than it has been,” Gausman said. “Obviously, the outcome wasn’t what it has been. That’s baseball sometimes. This is obviously a very good lineup and I only feel like I made two mistakes. Both of them left the park. When guys are on base, that’s just the reality of the game.”

Schneider saw a clear plan from the Orioles’ lineup and it’s one that other teams try to replicate all the time against Gausman: laying off pitches down in the zone to target the top half. The beauty of Gausman as a pitcher is that he’s so often able to beat you, even when you know exactly what he’s going to throw, but the Orioles hammered his two mistakes and even made some noise on pitches Gausman felt good about, like Santander’s blast.

Seeing the Orioles across the diamond was a jarring change after a softer spot in the schedule against the White Sox (twice), Tigers and Pirates. If the Blue Jays want to get where they want to go, teams like the Orioles are the standard.