Gausman's stellar effort offers hope for future

With 7 2/3 scoreless innings, young pitcher could turn into reliable fifth starter for Orioles

Gausman's stellar effort offers hope for future

BALTIMORE -- Kevin Gausman's night began with him stepping off the rubber and standing behind the mound as a rain of cheers poured down on the Braves' Nick Markakis, who was playing in his first game in Baltimore since joining Atlanta this season.

The 24-year-old's night ended with the night's second loudest cheer as Gausman exited the game after a career-high 7 2/3 innings, allowing six hits, no runs and a walk while striking out five.

"Pretty good, huh," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said after his club's 2-1 victory in 11 innings. "Really good. Kevin was sharp. Bottom of the zone, command of the breaking ball. Matt [Wieters] did a good job mixing it up. A lot of late life, a lot of weak contact, much like their pitcher."

Gausman was involved in a pitchers' duel with the Braves' Alex Wood the whole way. It was actually the second time the two faced off against each other, but this time on a much bigger stage.

The two matched up in college during the 2012 season when Gausman was at Louisiana State and Wood was pitching at the University of Georgia. Both pitched no-decisions that day as well.

"It's fun. You kind of feed off of each other," Gausman said. "You almost want to show up the other guy and you are waiting for somebody to crack. That's kind of the way it is right now. Everybody is hunting for wins right now, and that's the biggest thing, we got a win tonight."

Monday's start was arguably his best of the season, which is encouraging for the Orioles as they hope Gausman can turn into a reliable fifth man in the rotation. Gausman has been up-and-down this season, throwing 6 1/3 scoreless innings against the Rangers in one start and 3 2/3 innings of seven-run ball to Minnesota in the next.

But he had his stuff working in the series opener. He credited his fastball command as the biggest difference in Monday's outing, but he also had his fastball velocity, which was evident by a 98 mph heater in the eighth.

Gausman also reached a season-high 107 pitches, surpassing the 100-pitch threshold for the first time since Sept. 12 against the Yankees. It was a step forward for Gausman, and one that the Orioles hope the young right-hander will be able to build on.

"Today, I established my fastball in and also down and away," Gausman said. "Just one of those things. Kind of the flip of a coin. Some days you are going to have rough days like that. That's one thing veteran guys do really well. Even when they are struggling, they could get you through five, six, seven innings sometimes."

Connor Smolensky is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.