The first pitch that Kevin Gausman threw in the 2018 season was hit for a home run. The game did not get any better for the Orioles from that moment. By the time all was said and done, the offense had turned in another pathetic performance and the O’s were on the wrong end of a complete game shutout from Twins starter Jose Berrios. They dropped the game by a final score of 7-0.
There is a real commitment to failure at the craft required to give up three home runs in the cool air early in the season, even at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. On Saturday night, Andrew Cashner proved to be up to this task. Gausman followed up with the same commitment on Sunday afternoon in the series finale, serving up three home runs to the Twins over just four innings of work.
Gausman’s struggle of an outing was not confined to the first inning, though it was heavily concentrated there. He had the Orioles hitters in a 4-0 hole before they ever even had a chance to bat, and by the time he was done, he had given up six runs on seven hits and two walks. It’s not what the Orioles needed, particularly with Chris Tillman and Mike Wright about to face the Astros in back-to-back games.
If you’re in the mood to panic about Gausman, you might be thrown further towards panic by the observation of The Baltimore Sun’s Jon Meoli that Gausman was working Sunday with the slowest fastball of his MLB career. This after Gausman had supposedly prepared over the offseason to avoid his usual first half struggle.
It’s just one start, so the small sample size caveat remains - but you sure don’t want the small sample to be the absolute worst among the large sample of Gausman’s whole career. If this does not turn around, there are going to be problems for the Orioles, and for Gausman, that resonate beyond how he pitches in April, 2018.
Not that it really mattered a whole lot in the grand scheme of things how well Gausman did, or didn’t pitch on this afternoon. He had given up all of the offense that the Twins would need for the game in one pitch. The Orioles were shut out, this time unable to plate any runs in the garbage time ninth inning rally they did manage to accumulate.
For a second straight game, the Orioles very nearly were on the wrong end of a no-hitter until the late innings of the game. Catcher Chance Sisco doubled in the third inning, a play that was butchered by Twins left fielder Eddie Rosario, but since the rules about errors are generous to outfielders who miss catches after bungling routes, it went down as a hit.
This was the only hit an Orioles batter collected in the game until the ninth inning. In spirit, if not in letter, they were getting no-hit until the ninth. Berrios was just dominant, or the Orioles batters were pathetic, or both.
Berrios actually entered the ninth inning on pace for a Maddux - a complete game shutout in fewer than 100 pitches. That’s how much the Orioles hitters stunk. They were at least able to load the bases to avoid the Maddux, if not the complete game shutout itself. This silver lining is worth very little when thinking about a team that just picked up only 11 hits in its season-opening series.
It was Sisco who stopped the Orioles from getting one-hit with a ninth inning single. The rookie took advantage of a heavy Twins infield shift to bunt a ball down the third base line for a base hit.
This bunt was discussed after the game by Twins second baseman Brian Dozier, who was a whiny baby about the whole thing:
Twins were not thrilled with Chance Sisco bunting for a hit in 9th with Berrios working on a one-hitter with a 6-run lead.— Rhett Bollinger (@RhettBollinger) April 1, 2018
Dozier: “Obviously, we’re not a fan of it. He’s a young kid. I could’ve said something at 2nd base but they have tremendous veteran leadership over there."
Other than playing like the Orioles today, there’s really not a better way to be a loser than to whine about a bunt against the shift in the ninth inning of a one-hitter. Bollinger, the Twins beat writer for MLB.com, relayed similar whiny remarks from Berrios.
The impulse to whine about this sort of thing is almost understandable from competitive people in a no-hitter, even if it’s still stupid, but a one-hitter? Get over it, Twins. May you suffer a storm of bunts against the shift as you lose your remaining 159 games as penance for this absurdity. Chance, take all the free hits you can. Goodness knows the Orioles offense needs them right now.
Following Sisco’s bunt single, Chris Davis drew a walk and Manny Machado hit a single to load the bases. However, Jonathan Schoop fouled out for the second out and Adam Jones struck out to complete the shutout for Berrios.
The Davis ninth inning walk was the only one drawn by an Orioles batter in the game. It is a tough thing to win a game when your players safely reach base only four times in a game - tougher still when the starting rotation is continuing to party like it’s 2017.
Through three games in the leadoff spot, Davis has yet to record a hit. This is also a small sample size, but it’s sure a crummy one.
It’s alright, though. The series is over. The Twins will not trouble the Orioles for a while. The O’s only have to hit the road to face the defending champion Astros, who will be unveiling their World Series banner in their home opener at 7:10 on Monday night.
Say, did you know the Astros scored 896 runs last year? I’m sure Tillman is just the ideal guy to face them. That was sarcasm there. Charlie Morton starts the series opener for the Astros. Orioles baseball is not very fun through three games of the 2018 season.