Walkoff Win, Gausman Promotion News Revitalize Orioles
It's amazing how the mood of a fan base can dramatically shift during a single night.
Entering their May 21 matchup against the Yankees, the O's were at their lowest point of the season. They'd lost six games in a row, including three particularly heart-wrenching defeats during which closer Jim Johnson blew a ninth-inning lead. The Birds had fallen five games back of the division-leading Yankees, and some fans were in full-blown panic mode.
But for one night at least, the Birds brought back some of that 2012 Orioles magic.
Nate McLouth's walkoff home run leading off the bottom of the 10th snapped the Birds' skid and sent the Camden Yards crowd home happy for the first time during this home stand.
The game had all the ingredients of a classic 2012 Orioles affair -- a one-run, walkoff, extra-inning win, highlighted by a quality starting pitching performance and shutdown relief work.
Miguel Gonzalez provided the impressive start. Fresh off the disabled list, Gonzalez continued his career mastery against the Yankees by containing them to just two runs and five hits in seven strong innings.
For the much-maligned Johnson, coming off his three straight blown saves, the game brought redemption. He quieted the critics by pitching a perfect 10th inning. Granted, it wasn't a save situation, but it was just as important, keeping the game tied and setting the stage for McLouth's walkoff (which earned Johnson the win). Also deserving of kudos is Tommy Hunter, who looked outstanding in two scoreless innings of relief.
The Orioles didn't generate much offense, but they got key contributions from unlikely sources. McLouth, who normally gets benched against left-handed pitchers, hit his game-winning homer off a southpaw, rookie Vidal Nuno. And reserve outfielder Chris Dickerson was the offensive star by crushing two home runs off starter Phil Hughes, part of his three-hit night.
But even after the win was in the books and the shaving cream pies wiped off faces, there was even more fascinating news on the way.
As first reported by Jon Morosi of FOX Sports, the Orioles are planning to call up heralded pitching prospect Kevin Gausman from Double-A Bowie to join the major league rotation. Gausman will likely make his big league debut May 23 in Toronto.
The timing of the promotion is surprising -- most thought the O's would keep Gausman in the minors for at least a few more weeks to continue to get his feet wet at Bowie. This is, after all, Gausman's first full season in professional baseball after the O's selected him fourth overall during the 2012 draft.
Gausman has started eight games for Bowie this year, going 2-4 with a 3.11 ERA during eight games. Those numbers might not jump out at you, but he has certainly shown signs of dominance. In 46.1 innings, Gausman has racked up 49 strikeouts and just five walks. Gausman spent most of spring training in major league camp and showed flashes of brilliance, but a need for some refinement.
In a perfect world, the Orioles would let Gausman get as much seasoning as he needs in the minors before promoting him to the bigs. But with the Orioles' pitching depth in such dire straits -- having already cycled through 10 different starting pitchers, many of whom failed to impress -- the Birds have apparently decided it's time for a big move.
Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter have shown they're willing to be aggressive with the Birds' top prospects. Last year, they called up Manny Machado from Bowie at the beginning of August, catching fans by surprise with the early promotion.
That decision, and Machado's sterling defense, may well have been the difference maker in getting the Orioles to the postseason. The Birds also called up top pitching prospect Dylan Bundy to pitch out of the bullpen last September, and he likely would be in the majors this season by now if not for his injury.
Will Gausman prove to be the sparkplug Machado was in 2012? That remains to be seen, but all eyes will be on the 22-year-old righty May 23. Things just got a lot more fun in Birdland.
Posted May 21, 2013 by Paul Folkemer