Following a rare day off – Monday was only their second in June – Baltimore (37-38) headed north of the border to start a three-game series, Tuesday through Thursday, against the Toronto Blue Jays (36-39).
Baltimore entered the game 5-5 in their last ten games, playing somewhat better than they had much of June, and on the heels of their first road series win in over two months. Paul Janish commented during the pre-game radio show that hopefully Baltimore has had their bad run, and the series in Tampa was the start of something good. Optimistic fans of the O’s certainly hope that’s the case.
Toronto RHP Joe Biagini (2-6, 4.43) faced Kevin Gausman (3-7, 6.47) on a beautiful summer night at Rogers Centre where the game was played with the roof open.
Two out rallies; Gausman good early
Things started well right off the bat for the Birds. Following outs by Seth Smith and Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop booked the first hit, a single to left (fielded by Steve Pearce, it’s weird seeing him in Toronto) and Adam Jones walked in a quality eight pitch at bat. Mark Trumbo followed with a rope to center off the wall, scoring two runs. It was 2-0 Baltimore (and little did we know, that’s all they would need).
In the third, Schoop nailed a two out double to left – there was Steve Pearce again for Toronto – and Adam Jones came through with a clutch single making it 3-0. In the bottom of the inning, Gausman had another smooth time and he was through three giving up no runs, and aided by a double play and caught stealing, had faced the minimum nine batters.
The fourth inning brought more of the same. Two quick outs and then a walk to Hyun Soo Kim (no beer bottles thrown at him Tuesday, thankfully), a walk to Paul Janish and it was another two-out rally. Up came Seth Smith facing an extreme shift with SS Troy Tulowitzki, 2B Darwin Barney and 1B Justin Smoak all on the right side of the infield. After a wild pitch advanced the runners, Smith struck out and the inning was over. The O’s didn’t get another two out hit, but it ran Biagini’s pitch count up fast and it was about to be a bullpen night for Toronto.
Gausman keeps rolling
For his part, Gausman largely cruised along, but signs of trouble appeared in the fourth. With one out, C Russell Martin hit a bomb to left center that Kim caught just in front of the wall. Nearly a home run, but not. The next hitter, 3B Josh Donaldson, smoked one to left that was way out, but slightly foul. Nearly a home run, but not. And then Donaldson struck out looking. Baseball is definitely a game of inches and feet.
Kevin Gausman had thrown four shutout innings to start a game. And Gausman was protecting a lead. When was the last time that happened?
Toronto got their second hit of the game – a single to center off the bat of DH Kendrys Morales – with one out in the bottom of the fifth inning. It was their first knock since Jose “our fans don’t like him” Bautista started the game with a single. Steve Pearce then singled to put two on, but Gausman got out of the inning and was through five on 87 pitches.
Of course, it was all too good to be true. After an out by Darwin Barney, Jose Bautista singled and Russell Martin walked to bring the tying run to the plate in the sixth. And just as fast as things were going well, that was it for Gausman and Buck Showalter strolled to the mound motioning to the bullpen.
The first pitch from Mychal Givens to Josh Donaldson was to the backstop and Bautista and Martin advanced. His second pitch was just as bad, way off the plate, but somehow Welington Castillo lunged to his right and caught the ball. Oy vey. Once Givens finally located the plate, Donaldson absolutely smoked a ball, but as those feet and inches go sometimes, it was right at Manny Machado. Two down for Justin Smoak, one of the best hitters in the American League (that is not a typo). Smoak walked to load the bases and Kendrys Morales struck out on a pitch a mile high and out of the zone.
Givens was definitely not on his game, his control was atrocious, but somehow he got two outs and preserved a 3-0 lead. Despite the issues finding the plate, Givens came out for the seventh and promptly retired the side in order. Baseball is so magically unpredictable. Clearly, Buck knows and sees things other people don’t.
Closing the book on Gausman, that’s two quality starts in a row. They weren’t spectacular, but they were fine and better than he had been doing.
Tuesday, Gausman left after 5 1/3, giving up four hits, two walks and four strikeouts on 99 pitches. Last Wednesday, while he took the loss at Camden Yards against Cleveland, Gausman went 5 2/3 giving up three runs on six hits, walking two and striking out nine. Progress. Small steps of progress.
Jays starter Joe Biagini, despite all the pitches and two out troubles, kept his team in the game. He left after going 5.1 innings, and giving up five hits, three runs, walking four and striking out three. Frankly, it was a very Oriole mediocre like outing, but for a Blue Jays pitcher.
The bullpen and middle of the order deliver
It didn’t look good, but Mychal Givens went 1 2/3 scoreless innings. Darren O’Day pitched a shutout eighth inning, highlighted by impeccable pitch placement to strikeout Jose Bautista. And Brad Brach closed the door in the ninth, though he did allow a solo blast to Troy Tulowitzki, to pick up the save.
On the offensive side, days after the “all defense” team did the offensive damage Sunday in Tampa, it was time for the middle of the order to have their day. Jonathan Schoop, Adam Jones and Mark Trumbo carried the load Tuesday going a combined 5-11 with three RBI and three runs scored.
The O’s won 3-1 Tuesday. They are 4-1 on the season in Toronto and 8-2 overall against the Blue Jays. This is only the second time in 2017 Baltimore has won three road games in a row.
Notes and Wednesday’s Game
Toronto started an all right handed lineup (including switch hitters) against Kevin Gausman, which is a reflection as to how hard righties have hit him in 2017.
Gausman has only went seven innings once during 2017, earlier in the season against the Washington Nationals.
Starting Wednesday, the O’s begin a 12-game sprint to the All-Star Break against Toronto, Tampa Bay, Milwaukee and Minnesota.
Wednesday, Baltimore faces Toronto again at 7:07ET. Marcus Stroman (7-4, 3.69) faces Wade Miley (3-5, 4.48).
Who was the Most Birdland Player for June 27?
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Kevin Gausman for his start
Givens, O’Day and Brach for their work out of the bullpen
Schoop, Jones and Trumbo for providing the offense