Mid 80s temperatures gave way to a blustery mid 50s in Bowie Thursday night, but cold weather couldn’t suppress the undeniable talent of Kevin Gausman. Bouncing back strongly from a disappointing first start last week in Harrisburg that saw Kevin give up eight hits and six runs in four innings of work, the second-year pro out of LSU was on top of his game tonight. Retiring the first seven Akron Aero (CLE) batters he faced including three strikeouts, Gausman didn’t allow a runner to reach second base until errors by SS Garabez Rosa and 1B Aaron Baker put runners on first and second with no out in the top of the fourth inning.
Gausman compounded this unfortunate situation by uncorking a wild pitch that moved runners up to second and third base without a single out recorded. Having watched this situation get wildly out of hand with other Orioles pitchers in the past, I braced for the worst. All Gausman did was get back to back strikeouts of Chun-Hsiu Chen and Jesus Aguliar before retiring Quincy Lattimore on a grounder to short. Crisis averted.
The bats of the Baysox also started off cold facing Aeros lefty T. J. House before warming up in the bottom of the third inning. Two quick groundouts were followed up by back to back singles by Xavier Avery and Kyle Hudson. With two speedsters on base, a base hit was almost certain to score a run. Ty Kelly decided he would do better, tripling into the RF corner, plating both runs. Our old friend Lew Ford did strike out with Kelly on third, but the damage was already done. Gausman didn’t give up a run until a very strange sequence in the fifth inning when Giovanny Urshela roped a double down the third base line, advanced on Gausman’s second wild pitch of the evening, then scored when C Brian Ward overthrew Zealous Wheeler by a country mile trying to halt the advancing Urshela. There was some discussion in the press box as to the official scoring, but the run was ultimately charged to Gausman. No matter, as it was the only run the Aeros would score all night. Gausman finished strong; with his sixth and final inning of work only being interrupted by an inside fastball clocked at 97mph that found Chen’s right wrist.
The Baysox added runs in the bottom of the fourth, fifth, and six innings on a massive home run to center from Aaron Baker, a single to right by Kyle Hudson, and a groundout by Buck Britton, respectively. Chris Petrini and David Walker combined to pitch the final three innings without allowing a run, bringing the Baysox record on the year to 4-4 and giving Kevin Gausman his first Eastern League win, pitching six innings, allowing two hits, walking none, striking out five, hitting one batter and throwing two wild pitches.
Speaking after the game, manager Gary Kendall said of Gausman’s performance “He’s poised, we’re lucky to have him for however long we’ll have him”, when asked about exactly how long the 22 year old would be in Bowie, Kendall said “I think he’ll be in Baltimore soon.” Gausman seemed pleased with his performance, saying “I felt good, I felt on top of hitters all night.” Of the defensive issues behind him, he smiled and said “I love when guys are on base; it becomes a challenge, its go time.”
•Speaking of his slider, Gausman said “I threw it early for strikes,” and that he “babied it too much in Harrisburg.”
•On facing MLB hitters during spring training “I hit my spots, I was scared not to.”
•On limiting damage “One hit can turn into four or five real quick, so you have to stay on top of hitters when you get one guy on.”
•On pitching and winning in front of the home crowd “Always good to come home to get the first win in the home park.”
•Lew Ford runs incredibly hard. After leading off the bottom of the sixth with a single, Lew took third on a line-drive single to left field off the bat of Zealous Wheeler. The play at third wasn’t even particularly close.
•Aaron Baker absolutely mashed his homer to center; hitting the Wawa sub sign posted about twenty feet above the ground.
•Xavier Avery worked a walk in addition to roping a single, scoring two runs and stealing a base.
•Infield defense is a major issue for the Baysox, with three more errors being committed tonight, including SS Garabez Rosa’s fifth of the year. Despite that, Zealous Wheeler made several very good plays at 3B tonight.
•Final note about Gausman: 12 ground ball outs to only one fly ball out.