12. Baltimore Orioles vs. Oakland Athletics (Saturday, June 7 – 7:15 pm – 6-3)
The tipping point for the Orioles season came around June 1. The first two months of the season were littered with issues, which included inconsistent starting pitching, injuries (Manny missing the first month, Davis going down with an oblique strain, Wieters getting hurt), and generally tepid play.
If you were following the Observer account on Twitter (and you should be – www.twitter.com/oriolesobserver or @oriolesobserver), the goal of the first month of the season was for the O’s to keep their heads above water during a tough first month schedule. They did that, just a month longer than anticipated. The A’s came to town for a weekend series in early June that would kick off a 10-game home stand.
After losing 4-3 in extra innings on Friday night, which included the first Manny Machado incident of the weekend, the Orioles looked to rebound on Saturday Night, on national television. Kevin Gausman, being recalled for his second start of the season, was in a position to make a statement about where he stood in starting rotation pecking order. Facing an Oakland line up that had posted the best run differential in baseball, Gausman not only had to prove he belonged at the big league level for good, but also face a dangerous line up and rebound from a tough one run loss the night before.
Gausman was not just good on this Saturday Night – he was great. He threw seven strong innings, allowing one run on four hits while striking out seven. The pivotal moment in the game came in the sixth inning. Gausman allowed back to back singles to lead off the inning before getting John Jaso to weakly line out to third baseman Manny Machado. Oakland was not in the heart of the order, with Josh Donaldson and Brandon Moss coming to the plate. Gausman threw a wild pitch to Donaldson to move the runners to second and third before getting the strike out on a great 84 mph change up. Gausman proceeded to strike out Moss with a 99 mph fastball and pumped his fist as he walked off the mound, stranding both runners.
At this point, Paul and I both thought he was done but Gausman came back out for the seventh and retired the side in order, striking out Yoenis Cespedes and getting Jed Lowrie and Steven Vogt to weakly fly out and ground out respectively. At 102 pitches, Gausman’s night was complete and the O’s rolled on to a 6-3 win.
It can’t be understated how hard it is to win at the big league level. As a pitcher, if you can keep your team in the game, you have done well most nights. But tasked with two additional objectives, Gausman came through and delivered big. This was the first (and not the last) time that Oriole fans got to see how good Kevin Gausman is capable of being.