After 2 quick outs in 6th, 10-pitch at-bat leads to exit, 4-run frame
By Mandy Bell
BALTIMORE -- One at-bat changed an entire sequence for Kevin Gausman and the struggling Orioles on Friday night, as they dropped the series opener to the Cardinals, 11-2, at Camden Yards.
Entering the sixth inning, the Orioles trailed, 4-1. Gausman had thrown 95 pitches through the first five innings and was looking to complete the sixth -- a first for an Orioles starter since last Friday. The righty got two outs on 11 pitches, retiring Aledmys Diaz and Tommy Pham, before Jose Martinez came to the plate.
"I think that as a starter, our job is to go at least six innings, whether we give up 10 runs or two runs, it's to get through six," Gausman said. "We're just killing our bullpen right now as starters, so that was kind of my goal, to get through that sixth."
Gausman threw a first-pitch splitter followed by a 98.1-mph fastball to quickly jump ahead 0-2 in the count, trying to set up his first inning without allowing a baserunner. He then threw back-to-back pitches out of the zone, but Martinez didn't bite. After a heater was spoiled, Gausman came at Martinez with an 88.5-mph splitter that Martinez barely got a piece of and fouled straight back to catcher Welington Castillo low to the ground.
To the naked eye, it appeared that Castillo had caught the two-strike foul tip, giving Gausman the strikeout, but the ball hit the dirt before going in Castillo's glove.
"He really battled," Gausman said of Martinez. "I thought I struck him out on a pitch, and of course it hits the dirt. Obviously things aren't going our way right now, so just try to battle and minimize."
In a time where not many things are going the Orioles' way, the fraction of an inch that Martinez caught of the pitch and the slight bounce off the dirt in front of Castillo was just enough to keep the inning alive. On the 10th pitch of the at-bat, what could've been a strikeout turned into a two-out double down the right-field line prompting Gausman's exit from the game after throwing 116 pitches through 5 2/3 innings.
"Well, that was probably going to be his last hitter," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "There was some debate in my mind about letting him go out in the sixth, and he came out and I thought it would be good for him and his confidence. He got two quick outs and that long at-bat got him. They had a lot of long at-bats. It kind of ran up his pitch count as opposed to [Carlos Martinez]."
What was a manageable 4-1 ballgame quickly became out of reach after the Cardinals capitalized on Martinez's at-bat, tacking on four more runs with two outs in the sixth, leading to the Orioles' eighth loss in nine games and 12th straight game without a quality start.
"It's going to turn around at some point," Gausman said. "I wanted to be the one to kind of right the ship today, and it just didn't work out that way."
Mandy Bell is a reporter for MLB.com based in Baltimore. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.