BALTIMORE -- On Thursday night, against a Toronto Blue Jays team that has one of the most dangerous lineups in baseball, right-hander Kevin Gausman made a strong case to remain in the Orioles starting rotation.
Gausman held Toronto to just one run and five hits in six innings as the Orioles took the opener of their four-game series against the American League East-leading Blue Jays, 4-2, in front of an announced 17,403 at Camden Yards.
In two starts since being recalled from Triple-A Norfolk, Gausman has handcuffed two of baseball's best lineups, allowing just two runs in 13 innings, recording quality starts in both outings.
With Thursday's performance, Gausman -- the Orioles' 2012 first-round pick and current No. 2 prospect, according to Baseball America--made it nearly impossible for the team to send him back to the minors.
With right-hander Miguel Gonzalez nearly ready to come off the disabled list and Orioles manager Buck Showalter having pondered the idea of a six-man rotation, it's a good problem to have.
Gausman gave the Orioles' their fourth straight quality start. The Orioles' beleaguered rotation--the starters' 4.37 ERA heading into Thursday ranked 11th in the AL--has suddenly caught steam. They've allowed just two runs in their last 27 innings over four games (0.67 ERA). Orioles starting pitchers have allowed two or fewer runs in 11 of the last 14 games.
Meanwhile, the Orioles (34-31) have won three of their last four and outscored their opponents, 14-3, in that span. The Blue Jays (39-29) have lost five of their last six. With the win, the Orioles moved to within 31/2 games of Toronto in the division.
Gausman (2-1) wasn't as dominating as he was in his last outing, when he held the Oakland Athletics to one run in seven innings Saturday. But much like he did in that game, he used his breaking ball well to keep hitters off his high-90s fastball against a Toronto team that leads the AL in home runs and is second in runs scored.
The Orioles took an early 3-0 lead on Toronto left-hander Mark Buehrle, who entered the night having allowed more than two earned runs just two times in 13 previous starts.
Designated hitter Delmon Young--making just his second start since May 24 -- put the Orioles up, 2-0, two batters into the bottom of the first inning with his second homer of the season, a two-run shot to left that came on a 1-0 changeup from Buehrle.
Right before Young's homer, Nick Markakis opened the inning with a single, lifting his average in the first inning this season to .413 (26-for-63).
Struggling third baseman Manny Machado hit a leadoff double off the right-field wall in the second inning, snapping a 0-for-18 slump.
Two batters later, after Jonathan Schoop's sacrifice bunt moved Machado to third base, No. 9 hitter Caleb Joseph singled to left to drive him in and give the Orioles a 3-0 lead.
The Blue Jays scored their only run off Gausman in the fifth on Melky Cabrera's two-out single up the middle, snapping the Orioles' 19-inning scoreless streak. Juan Francisco, who opened the frame with a double to end the Orioles' 23-inning streak without having allowed an extra-base hit, scored on the play.
Markakis' RBI double off the right-field scoreboard in the seventh inning put the Orioles up 4-1 as he passed Brian Roberts for sixth place on the team's all-time hit list with 1,453.
The four runs Buehrle (10-3) allowed were the second-most he has given up this season. He allowed seven runs--six earned--against the Boston Red Sox on April 25, and he now has 10 quality starts in 14 outings.
Gausman was aided by strong defense early. He allowed an infield single to Jose Reyes to open the game, but Machado began a 5-3-5 double play on a groundout by Cabrera, throwing across the diamond to get Cabrera and then taking a throw from first baseman Chris Davis to nab Reyes trying to take third.
Gausman, who struck out three and walked three, stranded two on in the third after inducing an inning-ending groundout from Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista. And Gausman ended his outing by stranding Adam Lind on first base in the sixth after striking out Brett Lawrie on a nasty split-fingered fastball and inducing a fielder's choice groundout from Dioner Navarro.
Gausman, who had been kept on a meticulous pitch count over the season's first two months, threw 101 pitches Thursday. He threw 102 against Oakland on Saturday, his most as a professional.
Right-hander Ryan Webb allowed a run in the eighth when Bautista doubled to left, stole third and scored on a groundout by Encarnacion.
Closer Zach Britton converted his sixth save in seven opportunities with a scoreless ninth inning. Britton allowed a one-out infield single to former Orioles infielder Steve Tolleson, but induced a game-ending double-play ball from Darin Mastroianni.
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