An injury to the Baltimore Orioles' starting rotation forced the team to call on pitching prospect Kevin Gausman for a spot start against the Oakland Athletics on Saturday night. The 23-year-old responded by providing the Orioles with the best start of his major league career and an encouraging glimpse of his potential.
Gausman held an A's team with the American League's best record to just one run over a career-high seven innings in a 6-3 victory. The Orioles hit two homers, including David Lough's two-run shot off former closer Jim Johnson, who was making his first appearance at Camden Yards since being traded in December.
The win, before an announced sellout crowd of 44,202 on Manny Machado Bobblehead Night, was Gausman's first as a starter. He earned each of his three major league wins last year working out of the bullpen.
An Orioles rotation that has been up and down this season and that lost top insurance policy Johan Santana to a season-ending Achilles tendon injury Friday received a jolt from Gausman, who allowed four hits and struck out six.
The organization has handled Gausman (1-1) with care this season, holding him to strict pitch limits to ensure his availability down the stretch. But on Saturday night, the Orioles removed their restrictions to get a much-needed win.
Gausman threw 102 pitches, the most he has thrown in seven big league starts. No pitch was more important than the 99-mph fastball Gausman whizzed by Oakland cleanup hitter Brandon Moss with two on, two out and the tying run at the plate in the sixth inning.
Leading 4-1, Gausman allowed back-to-back singles to open the inning. After a lineout to third by John Jaso, both runners moved into scoring position after Gausman uncorked a wild pitch.
Gausman fed Josh Donaldson four straight high-90s fastballs, then, two pitches later, forced Donaldson to swing through an 85-mph changeup.
He needed just three pitches to strike out Moss to end the inning, and walked off the field to a loud ovation.
Gausman, who started Saturday because right-hander Miguel Gonzalez went on the designated list Friday, outpitched fellow first-round draft pick Sonny Gray, who entered the night fifth in the AL in ERA (2.45) and eighth in opponents' batting average (.224).
The Orioles (31-29) scored five runs off Gray, the most he's allowed this season, over a season-low 5 1/3 innings.
Gray left with one on and on outs in the sixth inning as Johnson -- a former Orioles draft pick and All-Star who recorded back-to-back 50-save seasons with the club before being traded to Oakland (38-24) -- entered the game.
Lough took Johnson's second pitch of the night, a 1-0 two-seam fastball clocked at 95 mph, into the right-field seats to give the Orioles a 6-1 lead.
The Orioles scored three runs off Gray in the bottom of the fifth inning to take a 4-1 lead, capped by two-out run-scoring singles by Nick Markakis and Adam Jones.
Rookie catcher Caleb Joseph opened the rally with a double into the right-center-field gap. Joseph sat on a 3-2 curveball and slapped it the other way, scoring David Lough from first base.
The 27-year-old Joseph, who has found himself in the starting lineup more often with starter Matt Wieters on the disabled list, entered the game 5-for-41 before recording his second big league RBI with his fifth-inning hit.
Two batters later, Markakis slapped a 1-2 pitch past the left side of the infield to score Joseph. He moved to second on a walk to Manny Machado, then scored on Jones' RBI single up the middle.
Jones gave the Orioles an early lead in the first inning, taking a 3-1 fastball over the center-field fence for a solo homer, his ninth of the season.
After getting ahead of A's center fielder Coco Crisp 0-2, Gausman threw a 97-mph fastball over the heart of the plate that Crisp turned on and sent into the flag court in right field.
But that was the only run Gausman allowed. He would allow just two hits -- the back-to-back singles to open the sixth -- over his final 4 1/3 innings of work.
With two on and one out in the eighth, right-hander Darren O'Day yielded a two-run single to pinch hitter Kyle Blanks, but recovered to strike out Donaldson and Moss to end the inning. He added a scoreless ninth to close out the game
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