When the Orioles called up Kevin Gausman to make Sunday's start, a complete game victory is the best thing that anyone could have hoped for. That's exactly what the Orioles got from Gausman as they beat the Yankees, 3-1, although the way it happened was not what anyone would have guessed. Thanks to rain, the teams only played through the top of the fifth.
After a 2:20 delay the umpires finally ended it and let everyone head off to their All-Star Break plans. As one Baltimore writer quipped on Twitter, they were in danger of running into the first Home Run Derby where a player could not participate due to having a regular season game still going on. The delay lasted longer than the game itself.
Things did not start out so smoothly in Gausman's latest return to the majors. He gave up a home run to Brett Gardner, the first batter he faced in the game, and ended up giving up hits to three of the first five batters he faced.
It's a good thing for the Orioles that one of the hits did not result in a baserunner. Mark Teixeira hit a ball to the right field wall and decided to challenge Nick Markakis by going for a double. This was a poor decision in retrospect, as Teixeira was just slow enough and Markakis' throw in from right was just off the bag enough that J.J. Hardy came far off the bag to fetch the throw right as Teixeira was passing by.
With two outs, that ended the first inning, so when Brian McCann got a single himself, that was in the second inning. In fairness to Gausman, this single was the sole result of Manny Machado making a boneheaded play, giving up on a pop-up as it floated back into left field even though he appeared to signal to left fielder Steve Pearce that he'd caught the ball. The official scorer, generous as ever to hitters, scored the play as a hit.
Following that, Gausman retired 12 of the next 13 batters, with the lone hit being a third inning Derek Jeter single. Gausman did not walk a batter in this shortened outing. Those 13 batters took him to the end of the game, not that we knew it at the time. in Gausman's peculiar complete game, he went five innings, gave up four hits (but it was really only three), one run, no walks, and had two strikeouts. He threw 78 pitches.
The Orioles didn't score until the fourth inning against Yankees starter Chase Whitley, who had a 14.80 ERA over his three previous starts. They loaded the bases in the second inning but it came with two outs, so a Jonathan Schoop fly ball to deep center did not have any material significance for the game's outcome. I heard that phrase on a World Cup game and just wanted to try it out, sorry.
The fourth inning breakout started, as many good things do, with a walk. It is, in general, a good idea in the year 2014 to maybe pitch around Nelson Cruz a little bit to get a chance to pitch to Chris Davis, who is real good at grounding into the shift. On a 1-1 pitch, Whitley threw a pitch around his shins and Davis went down and got it, driving it to the opposite field. Even this version of Davis is still a big, strong man; the ball flew to left and cleared the fence by a couple of feet for his 15th home run of the year. That gave the Orioles a 2-1 lead.
Following the home run, Hardy went opposite field for a double. He would score two batters later on a single by Jonathan Schoop that went, you guessed it, to the opposite field - just over a jumping Brian Roberts.
After the third Orioles run scored, Yankees manager Joe Girardi had seen enough of Whitley and pulled the plug. For once, the Orioles did damage to the guy they should beat.
The wind came during the pitching change, great gusts that sent garbage swirling across the Camden Yards infield. The radar was ominous, a lengthy delay was imminent. Markakis grounded out to reliever David Huff to send the game into the top of the fifth inning, after which the game would be official.
You know this scenario almost never happens except in jokes. The team takes the lead just in time for the game to become official, then the rain arrives. On Sunday night, they had to get through one more half-inning, with winds blowing every direction at once. One wild pop-up in the top of the fifth looked like it changed directions three times on Markakis and he ended up falling over as he caught it. The flags in left-center billowed out, the flags on the flag court blew strongly to the right.
It was wild. Every ball in the air was a reason to be nervous. Yangervis Solarte grounded out to third and with that, the game was official. Pearce led off the fifth inning with a walk, then the rains came in earnest. Though it took them a long time to get there, eventually, after midnight, the game was called and the Orioles were victorious. It's anticlimactic, but they all count the same in the standings.
The rain-shortened win sends the Orioles into the All-Star Break with a 52-42 record and a lead of four games in the division over the second place Blue Jays, who lost earlier Sunday. The O's won seven of ten to close out the first half of the season.
They needed every win they could get because they'll start off the second half of the season with a ten game West Coast road trip. Those are the good teams this year, and that's who the O's will have to beat on the road to maintain their place in the standings when the season resumes.
The next Orioles game is not until Friday at 10:05pm Eastern. Prepare yourself for the long haul. No one knows yet who's starting for the Orioles because like all of their starters are in the minor leagues, but O's hitters will be facing new Athletics acquisition Jeff Samardzija.