Coming into Thursday night's game, the Blue Jays had scored more runs than all but two other teams in baseball. In the first game of a four-game series, the Orioles countered with Kevin Gausman, whose debut last season was spoiled by the Blue Jays. Gausman triumphed this time around, turning in a strong six inning start to help the Orioles to a 4-2 victory against first place Toronto.
There was more than just the offense that looked to favor the Jays on paper. The Orioles also had to face the surprising Mark Buehrle, a plodding innings-eater who's turning in the year of his life at age 35. He came into the game with a 10-2 record and a 2.04 ERA, second best in the AL. With an average fastball velocity of 83.4mph, he fits the image of a dreaded lefty junkballer. Against those types, the Orioles must proceed carefully.
Naturally, that was prime time to insert Delmon Young into the lineup at the #2 spot. What on earth? There was method to the madness: Young, in his career, was 17-45 off of Buehrle, with two doubles and three home runs. That's nonsense, you might say, especially since the last of the home runs came in 2010, when Young was a much, well, younger man.
As it turned out, Young got his spot to shine in the first inning. Nick Markakis did what he does, getting a first inning hit so nobody would expect him to do anything else. Young stepped up to face Buehrle and walloped a fly ball that just kept carrying and carrying into the left field seats. This came two seconds after MASN broadcast duo Gary Thorne and Mike Bordick were discussing Young's history against Buehrle. "Push that button, Buck Showalter!" exclaimed Thorne, because he is the best, and possibly because he was inebriated.
Another run came in the third inning. The rally began with Manny Machado getting his first base hit in nearly a week. He doubled to right. With a man on second and no one out, Jonathan Schoop sacrificed to move him up, because we must constantly be reminded that to live is to suffer. Actually, Schoop may have been bunting for a base hit, but still, bunting is the worst.
At any rate, Machado was on third, which meant the Jays had to play the infield in to try to cut off the run at the plate. I see you out there with your hand waving in the wind. You are right, the Jays did not have to play the infield in. They chose to do so, probably because the batter was Caleb Joseph. All people underestimate Joseph at their peril. He drove a single between third and short to score Machado and plate the Orioles third run.
Staked to that lead, Gausman went to work. He did not do the Oriole thing and immediately give up the lead the next half inning. He did not give up the lead at all. Gausman worked his way around three walks over the first few innings, with none of the walks coming in to score - another very un-Oriole-like thing to do. It helps when you can reach back and throw 99mph. It helps a whole lot.
Over six innings, the Jays touched up Gausman for only one run. That came in the fifth inning, when Juan Francisco led off with a double into the right-center field gap. Anthony Gose tried to bunt his way on. He was thwarted thanks to a fine pounce-and-throw by Orioles catcher Joseph, who earned a post-game pie in the face. It was good pie, he said. Back to the game at hand, Gausman's defense helped him out one batter later: J.J. Hardy ran a long way to track down a pop-up by Jose Reyes that looked like it might fall into a Bermuda Triangle.
Gausman got two strikes on the next batter, Melky Cabrera, before throwing one of those 99mph heaters to try to finish him off. This was not a bad idea, but he left it in the middle of the plate and Cabrera smoked a single up the middle to score Francisco and put the Blue Jays on the board. Gausman very nearly gloved the liner, but he was just a little too late.
Over six innings, Gausman allowed only one run while giving up five hits and three walks. He struck out only three Jays batters. In general, you'd like to see more than that from a guy who can crank it up to 98-99, but it's hard to complain about tonight's results. On whether Gausman would be getting another start at the big league level, manager Buck Showalter was his usual cagey self post-game, telling reporters that Gausman "has done what it takes to be considered."
The Orioles added another run in the seventh inning when Markakis doubled off the out-of-town scoreboard to score Schoop, who had also doubled to reach. With two hits on the night, Markakis tied and passed Brian Roberts for seventh place on the all-time Orioles hits list. Now with 1,453 career hits as an Oriole, he sits two behind Ken Singleton for sixth place.
In the eighth inning, the Jays got one run back off of Ryan Webb, but it was never a hold on to your butts kind of game, not even when former Team Steve standout Steve Tolleson reached on an infield single in the ninth. Zach Britton induced a double-play grounder by pinch hitter Darin Mastroianni and the game was over. The save was Britton's sixth of the year.
With their second straight win, the Orioles pulled a game closer to the first place Jays. They now sit 3.5 games back. They'll look to make it three straight on Friday night behind... oh, geez. It's Ubaldo Jimenez's turn to start. Well, okay. Toronto sends Drew Hutchison to the mound, who has allowed five runs in two of his last three starts. That sounds promising enough.