Gausman returns to form in strong start

Right-hander throws seven innings of 2-run ball, strikes out 8

Gausman returns to form in strong start

BALTIMORE -- Chris Tillman came off the disabled list and re-joined the Orioles' rotation on Sunday afternoon. On Monday night, Kevin Gausman returned, as the righty -- the O's Opening Day starter with Tillman gone -- shook off his early-season funk and turned in his best outing of '17 in the series-opening 6-4 win over the Nationals.

Gausman, who entered the game 1-3 with a 7.55 ERA, looked like the Gausman of old on Monday night -- the guy who was the team's best starter down the stretch, pitching to a 2.45 ERA in six August starts, and a 3.18 ERA in his six starts after that.

"It was big for me," Gausman said. "It was just good to go out there and feel like myself. Good command of the fastball, and being able to throw it anywhere i wanted to. Anytime I can do that, and I can throw my secondary stuff, it's a good night."

Gausman struck out eight and held the Nats to two runs on five hits and a walk in just his second quality start this season.

"That was big. I thought the seventh inning was probably one of the keys to the game," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "We were short in the 'pen. Kevin really stepped forward against a really good offensive team. Really good. Probably as tough a lineup to match up with out of your bullpen because of the way they're constructed."

Gausman, who recorded an out in the seventh for the first time this season, threw 116 pitches, 77 strikes. He was able to get ahead early and often and, unlike earlier this year, finish off batters.

"When you've got four quality Major League pitches, they're all the best pitch," Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph said of Gausman. "The key down and away fastball is always No. 1 and he threw a ton of quality down-and-away strikes. Slider was there, split was there, really encouraging start. That was exciting to see him go back out there for the seventh, right? At 100-something pitches, it was cool to watch."

Brittany Ghiroli has covered the Orioles for MLB.com since 2010. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.