There’s no place like home. Sometimes you can even get there without ruby slippers. The Orioles, having returned to Baltimore, won their second straight game on Saturday night, beating the Indians, 5-2 on a hot and humid night in front of a crowd of 31,946.
Not that pitcher wins mean anything at all, but the Orioles have now had Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman, O’s first round picks in consecutive years, win games on back-to-back nights. It’s taken a long time to get to this point and of course it was just two games so who knows how long it’ll last. It’s something, though.
The Orioles closest division competitors, the Red Sox and Blue Jays, both lost on Saturday. The O's gain a game on each. They now lead the AL East over Boston by 1.5 games and hold a three game lead over the Jays.
Gausman had a fantastic night against an Indians team that’s marvelous on the road. That’s an encouraging sign. Although he labored through a couple of early innings, Gausman ended up completing seven innings for just the third time all season and threw a career-high 116 pitches.
While he was in the game, Gausman shut out the Indians, giving up only four hits and three walks in his seven innings. Manager Buck Showalter might have called on a reliever after six innings but it seems like he challenged Gausman to handle the seventh and Gausman was up to the challenge.
The Orioles hitters even gave him some run support for once, so he was able to pick up just his second win of the season.
The importance of running out grounders
They didn’t wait long to strike, grabbing three runs in the first inning. This almost did not happen at all, however. Singles by Adam Jones and Manny Machado set up a situation with Chris Davis at the plate with one out. Indians starter Josh Tomlin only needed to get a double play to get out of the inning.
Tomlin got his ground ball, but it was a slow-developing play, and Davis, who was running hard all the way, ended up sneaking in to first base ahead of the relay throw. It was a close thing, yet Davis was safe and the run crossed on what ended up being a fielder’s choice.
This play took on even more importance because the very next batter, MLB home run leader Mark Trumbo, did what he has done so many times before, turning on an inside pitch to drive it into the left field seats. Trumbo becomes the first player in the league to hit 30 home runs this season. He’s only four shy of his career high and it’s not even the last week of July yet.
In almost the blink of an eye, the Orioles had jumped out to a 3-0 lead over the first place Indians. If Davis wasn’t running out the grounder, the inning would have ended on a double play and who knows when or if the Orioles would have scored. This stuff doesn’t matter until it does.
The unfamiliar sight of good starting pitching
I’ll be honest, I didn’t think Gausman was long for the game at all. He gave up a leadoff double in the first inning and later issued a two-out walk. The Indians never did any damage to the scoreboard, though.
By the time Gausman was through three innings, he’d already thrown 60 pitches, which is another thing that would have made you think that he was going to pull a "five and dive" kind of game. This seemed even more likely when there was a very brief rain delay at the end of the third inning. Gausman started out to the mound for the fourth inning only to notice the grounds crew running out with the tarp.
It was a weird little shower. MASN’s Jim Hunter commented that it seemed to be raining over the infield and not out over the center field bar. This shower passed quickly and may have resulted in the shortest rain delay of all time, just 14 minutes.
After that short delay, Gausman seemed like a brand new pitcher. Although he let someone reach base in the fourth, fifth, and sixth innings, Gausman helped his own cause by rolling up the next batter with a ground ball. These were three easy double plays. Attacking hitters and letting the Orioles infield defense do the rest will get you places.
The Indians never got more than one hit in the same inning while Gausman was in the game. He faced the minimum three batters in four of the seven innings and no Indians reached scoring position against him after Carlos Santana’s leadoff double.
Two kinds of insurance runs
A 3-0 lead is nice. A 5-0 lead is nicer still. Cleveland’s starter Tomlin lingered into the seventh inning just as Gausman did. The difference is that Tomlin was welcomed to the inning by an absolute bomb blasted off the bat of Pedro Alvarez. His 12th home run of the season was estimated to go 448 feet. That’s a long way. And that's how you win a game where you only go 1-5 with runners in scoring position.
That sent Tomlin to the showers, leaving the bottom of the lineup to face reliever Jeff Manship. In the inning, J.J. Hardy, Caleb Joseph, and Jonathan Schoop all hit singles, with Schoop beating out an infield single to drive in the O’s fifth run. No, Joseph didn’t get an RBI, although he did have two hits and finally got his batting average up over the Mendoza line.
The insurance runs did end up proving significant for peace of mind purposes. When the ninth inning rolled around, with no save situation, the O’s brought in Brad Brach just to get him some work. I mean, I guess. He last pitched on Thursday which isn’t so long ago.
Whatever the case, Brach had some troubles. The first two batters he faced, Jason Kipnis and Francisco Lindor, reached on singles. Brach got two outs before giving up a two-run double to Lonnie Chisenhall to make the score 5-2. Well, better to give up runs in a non-save situation, right?
With the lead cut to three runs, that made it a save situation. Showalter summoned Britton for the cheapo one out save for the second straight game. He is now a perfect 32/32 on save chances this year.
Watch out though, because Britton was seen limping a bit after the game. He told Orioles reporters that it was just a leg cramp and he needs to hydrate better. Let’s hope that’s nothing.
The Orioles will go for the sweep of the Indians in a 1:35 game on Sunday afternoon. Vance Worley is scheduled to get another start for the Orioles, with Corey Kluber set to pitch for the Indians. Kluber has a 4.43 ERA in day games. You know what to do, Orioles.