BALTIMORE -- There has to be a way for Orioles starter Kevin Gausman to channel his signature second-half success. But so far, that secret has remained elusive. The righty -- coming off a 2017 in which he finished strong for the second successive season -- was challenged out of the
BALTIMORE -- There has to be a way for Orioles starter Kevin Gausman to channel his signature second-half success. But so far, that secret has remained elusive. The righty -- coming off a 2017 in which he finished strong for the second successive season -- was challenged out of the gate in '18.
Gausman lasted just four innings in his season debut, surrendering three homers and setting the tone for an Orioles club that was held to three hits in Sunday's 7-0 series defeat to the Twins.
"I felt good. But for whatever reason, it kind of wasn't there today," said Gausman, who said everything felt fine physically, despite his fastball velocity being lower than normal. "I felt like I got better as the game went on, really with everything. But I will say early on, I just didn't really feel as locked in as I have been in spring. I don't know if maybe having a couple extra days off had something to do with that, but my overall feel for my pitches wasn't what it has been."
From the moment the righty uncorked his first pitch -- a 91.3 mph fastball to James Dozier -- things went poorly. Dozier sent that ball over the fence as part of a four-run, 25-pitch first inning. Gausman had one clean inning, a 1-2-3 second, but Miguel Sano put a stop to any rhythm the righty may have started to feel, connecting for his second homer of the series to start the third.
"Kevin's been real effective last year at that velocity, so it's more about location and command of pitches," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "Just wasn't very crisp."
Eduardo Escobar also homered off Gausman, who exited after four innings in the O's second successive short start. Once again, though, pitching wasn't the only problem. Held to just three hits on Saturday -- and one through the first eight innings Sunday -- Baltimore's only baserunner off Twins starter Jose Berrios through the first eight innings was Chance Sisco.
"It was a little bit of both. We go out there and try to be aggressive. Him using that against us," Orioles first baseman Chris Davis said of Berrios. "It wasn't like we were swinging at pitches outside the zone. Really commanding all of his pitches. He was making his fastball move a lot and late. It's early. There's no need to panic or to start looking around. It's part of it."
Berrios, who got out of a one-out, bases-loaded spot in the ninth, was dominant in his first career shutout. The Orioles are still waiting for Gausman to take that consistent step forward.
Consider this: Gausman has a 4.94 ERA in his career in the first half of the season (including 49 starts) versus a 3.58 mark in the second half. Last year, he went 6-5 with a 2.70 ERA from July 19 through the end of the season.
"He had the same approach [as the end of last year]," Showalter said. "It's one game against a really good team, and I know how people think the past is always going to repeat. It doesn't. Kevin's a good pitcher. He showed that last year and the year before. He'll have some good outings ahead of him in the first half."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Gausman stumbles early: Gausman's first pitch of the season was sent out by Dozier and proved to be the precursor to a disappointing afternoon. The O's righty allowed four first-inning runs; last year, he pitched to a 6.35 first-inning ERA.
"Yeah, obviously you are trying to get off to a good start, and the first pitch you throw he hits it over the fence," Gausman said. "But I thought I tried to do a good job battling back. Unfortunately, I walked the next guy and just kind of put myself in a hole right away."
Orioles' late effort falls short: Berrios needed just 71 pitches to get through seven innings, as he got ahead early and often. But Baltimore staged a potential rally in the ninth as Sisco bunted for a one-out hit and Berrios walked Chris Davis.
"They are playing the shift right there, so they kind of gave it to me. If they're going to shift there, I have to take it," Sisco said of dropping the bunt. "And we got bases loaded after that. A couple home runs away from tying the game up."
After Manny Machado's single loaded the bases, Berrios got Jonathan Schoop to pop up and fanned Adam Jones to keep the shutout intact.
Sisco said he was just trying to mess with the timing of the game and get on base, though it didn't sit well with some in the Twins' dugout.
"Obviously, we're not a fan of it," Dozier said. "He's a young kid. I could've said something at second base, but they have tremendous veteran leadership over there with Chris Davis, Adam Jones and those guys. I'm sure they'll address it and move forward. It's all about learning up here."
"I think it's a good spot for the entire lineup for me to be at the top. At some point, we'll all start clicking and get rolling. Honestly, it's just a spot in the lineup. I think when our offense gets going, it doesn't matter who is hitting where. We've got power from top to bottom. We can drive in runs. We have to take a deep breath and stay after it." -- Davis, who is hitless in three games out of the leadoff spot
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Twins starters combined to throw 21 scoreless innings against the Orioles. The last time the club had three starting pitchers throw at least six scoreless innings in consecutive starts was June 10-13, 2014 (Kevin Correia, Phil Hughes, Kyle Gibson).
The Orioles will head to Houston to face the reigning World Series champion Astros, and Chris Tillman will get the ball on Monday night at 7:10 p.m. ET, live on MLB.TV. The righty re-signed on a one-year deal with Baltimore this spring and will look to bounce back from a 2017 in which he posted a 7.84 ERA.
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Brittany Ghiroli has covered the Orioles for MLB.com since 2010. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast.