Until late Thursday, Gausman appeared to be the favorite to start Friday's contest, but manager Buck Showalter went with T.J. McFarland instead. McFarland left after 2 2/3 innings with the Orioles trailing, 3-0, but Gausman came on to stop the bleeding and keep the Yankees at bay long enough for the Orioles to mount a rally.
Yankees starter CC Sabathia had a no-hit bid through five innings, but Nate McLouth broke that up with a leadoff single in the sixth. He later scored during the three-run sixth, and he homered off Sabathia in the next inning to put the Orioles in front for good, 4-3.
The Yankees scored a first-inning run off McFarland, who was making the first start of his Major League career after spending the season in the bullpen. They also tagged him for two in the third inning before Showalter went to his bullpen early.
Gausman replaced McFarland and struck out David Adams to limit the third-inning damage. He appeared to be on cruise control for the next four innings, never allowing a batter to reach second base. He finished with four strikeouts and no walks, and kept the Yankees off the board long enough for the Orioles to tie it in the sixth.
Showalter said that pitching in relief might have had a different impact on Gausman, because he entered the game feeling he had nothing to lose.
"Sometimes, when you put young pitchers in a come-to-the-rescue mode, where there's a little different culture that they come into in a game, experience tells you that you try to create a situation where they've got nothing to lose. And I think he really came in there letting it rip," Showalter said.
Gausman was unaware after McLouth's homer that he'd be in line for his first win if the score held.
"I didn't really know if [a credited win] had to be the same inning or if you had to throw a pitch after that or anything," Gausman said with a smile. "But then, after people started congratulating me, I said, 'Oh. That's the way it is.'"
McLouth's homer evoked memories of a similar matchup last October, when he went deep against the Yankees in Game 5 of the AL Division Series. So was he thinking about that blast as he connected?
"I wasn't even out of the batter's box before I thought that," McLouth said. "Off the bat, I knew it had the distance, it just stayed true. It stayed straight, and I was happy about that."
Sabathia retired the first eight Orioles in order before Alexi Casilla reached on an error on a hard-hit ball to third. Sabathia had a no-hitter through five innings on just 57 pitches until McLouth's sixth-inning single.
After McLouth singled, Casilla hit a tapper to Adams at first base. Adams charged in, but Sabathia fielded the ball, leaving nobody at the bag and no play on the speedy Casilla.
After Nick Markakis popped out, Manny Machado hit his Major League-leading 37th double to drive in two and bring the Orioles within a run. McLouth trotted home, and Casilla scored easily from first.
Machado then tagged up and advanced on J.J. Hardy's fly ball to left-center, and he scored when Jones tapped a ball toward first base for an infield hit.
Showalter and several Orioles said that Machado advancing to third on the Hardy play was crucial to the rally.
"Gardner has a good arm, but he caught it flat-footed. I think that's the key to the game," Jones said.
"I saw him camping under the ball, and in that situation there, you really don't want to tag up, especially with the ball in left-center field, but he camped up, and I thought I had a pretty good shot at it, and I went for it," Machado said. "It's a do-or-die play. Something that Buck allows us to do is play our game. If you have a shot for it, go for it."
The three-run inning not only tied the score, it put Sabathia at 90 pitches after he'd cruised through five and been pitch-efficient to boot.
"It's super-frustrating," Sabathia said. "We've been battling and scuffling all year, dealing with injuries and everything. For us to come out here and put up three [runs] against a tough team and not be able to hold it late in the game is extremely frustrating. I have to get better."
Entering the tilt, the Orioles had gone 12-12 against the Yankees since the start of 2012. Each team had scored exactly 112 runs in those 24 contests, so recent history suggests that the close contest wasn't that unusual.
Tommy Hunter pitched the final two innings to earn his second save of the season, and the crowd roared its approval. The Orioles' regular closer, Jim Johnson, didn't pitch on Thursday, but he had pitched on three of the four previous days, and Showalter wanted to give him the benefit of a second consecutive day off.