BALTIMORE -- In a season where starting pitching has been the team's biggest challenge, the Orioles need Kevin Gausman to find his stride to give Baltimore a chance at staying in the American League East race.
The righty did not live up to the expectations the Orioles had of him in the first half of the season, posting a 5.85 ERA. But Gausman hoped that a fresh start after the All-Star break would put him back on track. Instead, he had one of the worst outings of his career on Friday night, giving up a career-high four home runs and tying a career high of eight earned runs through just three innings in a 9-8 loss to the Cubs.
"I had an OK feel for my breaking ball and didn't have a feel for my split, so I had to throw fastball, changeup and my fastball location wasn't very good either," Gausman said. "So, when you're a starting pitcher and they're just looking for two pitches, they can pretty much just kind of sit and wait for their pitch."
"Just command. He was missing," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "Kept waiting for him to get on the horse a little bit and he never got on. That was tough. You hate to see anybody struggle like that."
Last season, Gausman had 18 quality starts in 30 outings with a 3.61 ERA. He carried the Orioles through the second half, pitching to a 2.45 ERA in August and a 3.18 ERA in September and October. With his strong finish last year, the Orioles named Gausman the 2017 Opening Day starter, expecting him to be the team's ace, but he has had four starts of less than four innings -- excluding his ejection in Boston -- with only five quality starts of his 20 outings.
"It's frustrating. We're trying to find the answers and you get them for a period of time," Showalter said. "His stuff, velocity [look good], but there's a lot more to it. People turn around a bullet at this level. If you look back through it, like we were looking between innings, he's trying to go in and he's center-center, and you're trying to go away and these guys up here, they don't miss balls in the center of the plate."
In his career, Gausman has pitched better after the All-Star break, posting a 4.94 ERA in the first half and a 3.63 ERA in the second half. Prior to the All-Star break this season, Gausman mentioned it was reassuring to know he was a second-half pitcher, but was not expecting to start it the way he did.
"Obviously, I wanted to come out here and hit the ground running going into this second half," Gausman said. "It was just bad. I kind of became a two-pitch pitcher out there. When you're a starter trying to do that, some days you can get away with it. Most days you can't. It was just bad execution."
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.