The Orioles got off to a poor start in their series against the Rays, being shut out for the first time this season while recording 11 strikeouts on the night. Starter Kevin Gausman made his season debut and spent four innings wowing us, but it wasn't enough to overcome the excellent start by Rays starter Chris Archer.
The Goose Got Cooked
After watching the varous starting pitching performances from Orioles this season, the first four innings pitched by Kevin Gausman were a welcome sight. Where most of the O's starts have left you with the smell of farts lingering in your nostrils, Gausman was a breath of clean, fresh air. He was pumping fastballs at 99 and throwing filthy sliders, making the Rays look just silly. He and Chris Archer dueled into the fifth inning before Gausman faced a combination of poor umpiring, frustrations, and fatigue. He only ended up giving up one run, but at 32 pitches it was enough to drive him from the game.
Through the first four innings, Gausman allowed just two base runners. He only needed 10 pitches to get out of the first inning and worked around a two-out double by Brad Miller, and in the third he just struck out the side, all swinging. No biggie. Former Oriole Steve Pearce started the fourth inning with a single but never made it past first base as Gausman struck out Evan Longoria and Corey Dickerson, then got an inning ending ground ball.
Going into the fifth he was simply cruising. He had thrown 59 pitches and didn't look in any danger. That all fell apart in a hurry. After striking out Miller he appeared to do the same to Steven Souza. But the umpire didn't call what looked like strike three, extending the at bat. Check it out, what do you think?
Kevin Kiermaier flew out to center field for the second out, then it appeared that Gausman struck out catcher Curt Casali to end the inning. Again, let's go to the graphic:
With new life, Casali doubled down the left field line to knock in the first run of the game. It really stinks that Gausman got those bad calls, but as my compadre Mark Brown said on Twitter tonight, you gotta retire the #9 hitter who is batting .135. You just gotta. Pitch number five may have been a strike, but you can't throw pitch number six right down the middle.
After speeding through four innings, Gausman slowed his pace considerably with these runners on base. Needing to get just one last out, Goose threw a ball up and in to Logan Forsythe that just barely knicked him. Gausman then walked Pearce making things even more dire. With the bases loaded and Longoria up to bat, I pictured something terrible happening. Thankfully Longo flew out to end the brutal inning.
Things didn't end in the same rosy fashion that they started with, but Gausman's outing was very encouraging. The Orioles could use a few more of him in the rotation.
Offense, Thy Name is Pedro
Many people have been calling for the benching of Pedro Alvarez. It's not without cause; coming into this game he was hitting .108/.267/.135 on the season. That's an OPS+ of 19 for a man whose only job is to hit the ball.
Tonight was a little different for Pedro. While Chris Archer mowed down Orioles left and right, Alvarez seemed to be the only guy who could figure him out. In the third inning he doubled down the left field line and in the fifth he hit a ball that came very close to clearing the fence, but instead he settled for another double.
Archer was filthy tonight, looking back to the form that people expected coming into this season. Aside from the two doubles by Alvarez, Archer gave up three singles, one each to Matt Wieters, Adam Jones, and Mark Trumbo. He did not allow more than one runner on in any inning, nor did he walk anyone. He struck out 10 batters.
It looked like Archer was going to get out of the seventh inning with no troubles except for a strange place on defense. With one out and Wieters on first, J.J. Hardy hit was looked like it should have been an inning ending double play ball. When the second baseman Forsythe made the relay throw back to first, however, instead of throwing to Pearce covering he threw to Archer, who had come over in case he needed to cover the bag, but who was standing a few feet off the bag.
Because of that, Archer did not complete seven innings. The next batter up was Alvaraz, who had already knocked Archer around. The Rays went to lefty Enny Romero instead, a good move. Instead of countering with pinch hitter Nolan Reimold, Buck Showalter elected to leave Alvarez in against the lefty. Predictably, it did not go well.
Fire Brian Matusz
Coming out of the bullpen to relieve Gausman was lefty Brian Matusz. You probably heard the collective groan of Orioles fans around the globe as he threw his warmup pitches. Matusz started the season on the disabled list, making this just his second appearance this season. In his first he pitched to three batters. He retired one, walked one, and gave up one hit. He was even worse tonight.
Matusz has never been able to get out righties. He just can't. His value, such that it is, is in getting out lefites. The first batter he faced was lefty Corey Dickerson, who in his career has hit to a .680 OPS with a .284 OBP against lefties. Naturally, Matusz walkd him.
He retired both Desmond Jenning and Tim Beckham (righties) before Souza singled to put two runners on. Two on, two out and lefty Kevin Keirmaier stepped to the plate. Do you know what Matusz did? He walked him! Get out of here Matusz! No, seriously, get out, Buck pulled you for Vance Worley.
Unfortunately the first batter Worley faced, again #9 hitter Curt Casali, was hit by a pitch. It was just barely, but that's enough. It forced in the second run of the game. Worley bounced back admirably to pitch the final 2 1/3 innings with no runs allowed.
A Three-Pitcher Ninth
Armed with a two-run lead, Rays manager Kevin Cash managed the ninth inning like it was the World Series. Erasmo Ramirez started the inning and retired Adam Jones. Cash then brought in Xavier Cedeno to face Chris Davis. Davis hit a ball to shallow center field that looked like it might fall in, but Kevin Kiermaier is like Superman out there and he raced in to make a sliding catch.
With two outs and Mark Trumbo coming to the plate, Cash again went to the bullpen. This time he brought in Alex Colome, who got a ground out to end the game.
The worst part of the ninth inning was the giant wince that Adam Jones made swinging during his at bat. He had to take a little walk before getting back into the batter's box, and it definitely looked like he hurt his ribcage area. That's what kept him out of a stretch of games early in the season.
So the Orioles dropped the first of their three-game series in a disappointing fashion. It was great seeing Gausman out there, though. I look forward to his next start. The O's are back in action tomorrow at 7:10 with Ubaldo Jimenez facing off against Jake Odorizzi.