After a heartbreaking loss Friday, the Birds came into Saturday's game 6.5 games behind Toronto in third place. If that wasn't enough, they would have to face one of the best pitchers in league. Sonny Gray boasts a 6-1 record with a 2.53 ERA. For the O's, Kevin Gausman received a spot start, looking to earn his first win as a starter. Fans throughout the stadium were buzzing about the opportunity to see Gausman take the mound once again. In addition, Manny Machado bobblehead night filled the yard and wanted a win to go along with it. Machado got a massive ovation which also stemmed from his role in the confrontation with Josh Donalson last night.
Adam Jones got things started with a solo homer in the bottom of the first to get the crowd fired up. Gausman's only real mistake came up the third inning when hung a ball over the plate that Coco Crisp deposited into the flagcourt in right to even the score. The Orioles offense would respond immediately as they got runners on base frequently due to hard hits and situational hitting. Caleb Joseph (future battig champ) broke the tie with a long double into the right-center gap to plate David Lough. For Joseph, he continues to hit the ball well and I now prefer him to start over Nick Hundley. Two batters later, Joseph would score on a Markakis single that slowly trickled by Jed Lowrie to make it 3-1. Two batters after that, Jones ripped an RBI single up the middle to score Markakis. It was a rare outing for Gray as he was unable to record a quality start. Coming into Saturday he was 5th in the AL in ERA.
Gausman by that point had found hid groove, keeping the ball low with an extremely effective changeup that limited Oakland on the basepaths. He pitched seven strong innings of one-run ball, turning the lead over to the bullpen. The inning before, Baltimore saw a familiar face trot out of the bullpen in Jim Johnson. Johnson, met with a chorus of boos, continued with his 2014 struggles as he immediately gave up a long two-run homer to David Lough (!) to put the game out of reach. This brought the crowd to it's feet once again as Lough had another strong game in left.
Although Kyle Blanks got a two-run single off of O'Day (Matusz's runners), the bullpen finished off the game to create a rubber match for Sunday. For the first time in a week the O's did not register 10+ hits but hit the ball hard regardless off one of the best pitchers in the league. Ubaldo Jimenez will face another strong pitcher, Scott Kazmir to win the series. Gausman, as expected was lauded by fans for his performance and remains the "next guy up" if a rotation spot opens up now that Johan has torn his ACL, effectively ending his short stint in Baltimore.