It is not easy to win on the road — especially at Fenway Park. The loud chants, short corners and huge Green Monster play a major role in what the best offensive team in baseball, the Boston Red Sox, like to do.
The team hits scores and quite simply, dominates offensively. However, the first-place Red Sox could not seem to get anything going against Baltimore Orioles’ starter Kevin Gausman on Wednesday night.
In the rubber game of a three-game set, Gausman, who has been know for his road struggles, threw eight shutout innings allowing just four hits and a walk while striking out six in the Orioles 1-0 win.
Since the All-Star break Gausman is 7-4 with a 2.58 ERA in 12 starts. In his last five, Gausman has been even better allowing three runs in 33 innings with a 0.82 ERA.
Gausman, who picked up his first road win in two years on Aug. 28, silenced a sellout Fenway crowd while moving the Orioles into the first wild card spot and one game behind the Sox who sit atop a crowded AL East.
“This is not about what it bodes for in the future, this is about right now, manager Buck Showlater said about Gausman’s performance down the stretch. “What it means is he played a big part in us beating a team we need to beat on the road.”
It’s a lot of fun, Gausman said about facing Porcello. “Obviously, the rubber match in this ballpark, the atmosphere tonight was just incredible, so you try to feed off of that. And like you said, he’s a Cy Young candidate right now, so I knew he was going to pitch well. So for Trumbo to come up big there was huge. Without him, who knows how the game goes. Once we scored one, in the back of my mind, I kept telling myself, that’s all we needed. So I just tried to attack these guys.”
Although scoring just one run, Gausman was able to out-duel Cy Young candidate Rick Porcello and hand him his first home loss of the season. He was 13-0 in front of the Fenway faithful.
Kevin knew he was going to have to be on top of his game. Porcello’s having a great year and he’s going to be another Cy Young candidate that we’ve seen – a lot of them on this road trip. Seemed like we’ve been gone for a couple years.”
So what has been the difference for Gausman since the break?
“I think a lot of quality strikes with the fastball,” Showalter said “I think Kevin and Dylan (Bundy) both realize it’s one thing to have a good fastball, but poorly located fastballs get whacked up here. Both sides of the plate were there for him and Matt knew when to slow him down a little bit. You could see his tempo and just the way he was going about his business that he had a real confident front.”
For Gausman, it’s really just about finding consistency.
“I think I’m just being a lot more consistent with all my pitches,” he said. “I think my breaking ball has come a long way really in my last five, six starts. Starting to trust it a little bit more, throw it off the plate. You know, I think for some reason I try to throw it for strikes all the time and against a lot of right-handed hitters I struggled. It was something that going forward I knew it was going to be a big pitch for me, so tried to work on it in my sides but more than anything it was just consistency.”
In the win, outfielder Mark Trumbo ark Trumbo hit his league-leading 42 home run of the season, the only run in the game and closer Zack Britton improved to 43-for-43 in save opportunities this season.
“Zach, really the last couple years, has really been ridiculous,” Gausman said of his closer. “You look at how much his ball moves with the velocity he throws it, it’s special. He does something that nobody else in the game can do, and from the left side. So obviously, you see Hanley’s last at bat, he threw some really good pitches and kind of got his number on that last at-bat. He’s kind of been that way for the last couple of years and he just continues to impress and be a leader in our clubhouse. Any time you give the ball to him you feel confident.”