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Gausman's sharp relief keeps Game 2 within reach for O's

In playoff debut, rookie righty holds Tigers to one run over 3 2/3 innings, whiffs five

BALTIMORE -- Kevin Gausman was told to be ready for Thursday. He didn't have any specific knowledge of what his role in his first postseason would be, just that he needed to be prepared.

The Orioles didn't need the rookie right-hander in Game 1 of the American League Division Series, and until Game 2 starter Wei-Yin Chen unraveled in the fourth inning Friday, Gausman's role remained unclear. After a couple of hits off Chen in the fourth, manager Buck Showalter called down to the bullpen to let Gausman know he really needed to get ready. Then came two home runs and another two-out hit that gave Detroit a three-run lead. This was what the O's needed Gausman for -- to rescue them in a game that was quickly slipping away.

"Once I started warming up, I felt pretty good right away," Gausman said. "Usually it takes me a good amount of time to get loose, but you know, two throws and I was ready to go."

A two-run Orioles lead had transformed into a three-run deficit in a matter of five batters in the fourth. With the top of the order coming up, the Orioles needed to give the Tigers' hitters a different look. Gausman's first playoff test was Ian Kinsler, and he fanned him with a 98-mph fastball.

The rookie went 3 2/3 innings, allowing only one run to keep Baltimore within reach for a 7-6 win.

"That's the reason we won the game," said closer Zach Britton, who earned the save. "[Having] a guy like him in our bullpen shutting down the lineup for a couple innings and allowing us to get back in that game was important."

In the process, Gausman struck out Victor Martinez, J.D. Martinez, Alex Avila and Andrew Romine, in addition to Kinsler. He cruised through his first 3 1/3 innings, facing the minimum with some help from his defense.

After Torii Hunter led off the fifth with an infield single, Miguel Cabrera smacked a grounder toward the hole between third baseman Ryan Flaherty and shortstop J.J. Hardy. Flaherty dove to make the stop and turn two. Then Gausman burned Victor Martinez with a 98-mph fastball to end the inning.

"It was incredible. Right when he dove, I thought, 'Maybe,'" Gausman said. "It was a pretty big play for us."

A leadoff walk to Hunter in the eighth put Gausman in trouble and back-to-back hits plated a run. Showalter stayed away from Andrew Miller and Darren O'Day -- his big arms in the Game 1 win -- in favor of Brad Brach, who ended the inning with consecutive flyouts.

"We knew when he came in, there was a 'W' somewhere," Showalter said. "He's snaked out a few of them. What would that make him, 8-1 for the year? He should be a starting pitcher."

When Baltimore erupted for four runs in the eighth to take the lead, it set up Britton for his first postseason save.

He notched it the way he does most of his saves -- in order with a couple of groundouts and a strikeout. The depth of the Orioles' vaunted bullpen was on display to help Baltimore take a 2-0 lead in the ALDS.

"Everyone's important in our bullpen," Britton said. "It's not just three guys."

Read More: Baltimore Orioles, Zach Britton, Kevin Gausman, Brad Brach