There were moments early in Kyle Gibson’s career that he looks back on and realizes he was too hard on himself, that he didn’t enjoy the thrill of life in the major leagues enough.
But this season with the Orioles, “I’m trying to not have any of those times,” the veteran right-hander said Thursday after he provided Baltimore with seven scoreless innings against the New York Yankees in a 3-1 victory.
The Orioles won their fourth straight series against American League East opponents, taking sets from each of the division’s other teams to pull off a feat they hadn’t achieved since 2016. Paired with winning two out of three in their final visit here last season, the Orioles have won consecutive series at Yankee Stadium for the first time since 2014.
“I think we’re one of the best teams,” Gibson said. “We’re one of those juggernauts.
“I don’t know that I can describe how much fun I’m having.”
Gibson has faced each of the AL East’s four other teams and pitched well, with Thursday’s performance leaving him with a 2.52 ERA as he’s averaged more than six innings per divisional start. He opened and closed Baltimore’s 5-1 road trip with seven-inning outings, holding the Toronto Blue Jays and Yankees to one run combined.
Signed to a $10 million contract this offseason to be a stabilizing presence in Baltimore’s rotation, he has supplied that and more. Thursday’s outing lowered his overall ERA to 3.82 and made him Baltimore’s first pitcher to throw at least seven scoreless innings against New York since Kevin Gausman in 2016.
“That was a masterful performance,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “He’s got big-time intangibles, with veteran leadership, and our guys really rely on him because he’s got great experiences and been on winning teams. He showed what kind of player and pitcher he is tonight. A lot of the guys look up to him, and he’s been amazing.”
After a sweep of Toronto, the Orioles (33-17) suffered their lone loss of the road trip in this series’ opener, dropping a game they led 4-0 in the fourth and 5-4 in the ninth. But they rallied for the series victory with an eight-run seventh inning Wednesday ahead of Gibson’s dominance Thursday.
He allowed a single up the middle on his first pitch, then no other hits until the seventh, though he worked around four walks. His sinker-sweeper combo proved effective; after Gleyber Torres’ leadoff single in the first, the next nine balls in play off his sinker became outs, with four of the five swings taken against his sweeping slider missing.
Gibson’s last pitch, his 96th, led to a 3-6-1 double play, with Gibson excitedly running from first base toward Baltimore’s third base dugout before a replay review gave him pause. The call at first stood, completing Gibson’s strong outing. He credited shortstop Jorge Mateo for being willing to make the throw to him at first to get the latter out rather than simply settling for the force at second base.
“Anytime that you can take advantage of those plays like that and get out of an inning, that’s why you’re gonna see a little bit of the emotion and everything come out,” Gibson said. “It was a big spot right there.”
To open the top of the eighth, Anthony Santander, who had driven in the game’s lone run to that point with an RBI single in the fifth, walked to reach base for a fourth time. A batter later, Gunnar Henderson also drew a free pass; in the rookie’s four plate appearances Thursday, he saw 26 pitches. Austin Hays drove both in with a two-run double that came inches from clearing the right field wall.
With closer Félix Bautista unavailable after pitching in the series’ first two games, Mike Baumann worked a perfect eighth with two strikeouts, his fastball topping 99 mph in an outing Hyde called “awesome,” before Yennier Cano handled the ninth. It began with a walk of reigning AL Most Valuable Player Aaron Judge, the first Cano had issued in 25 2/3 innings this season, and Willie Calhoun doubled him home with two outs to spoil the shutout before a lineout to center by rookie Anthony Volpe ended the game.
“I think we showed just a gritty team,” Hyde said. “The way we won, too, none of them were easy wins. Just really proud of our club, honestly, because these are two really tough places to play against two excellent teams and just we played well in so many areas.”
The victory was the Orioles’ 14th of May, ensuring them at least a .500 record in a month in which they faced a daunting schedule. After opening May against the Kansas City Royals, Baltimore had three straight series against teams that entered the matchups leading their respective divisions in the Atlanta Braves, the Rays and the Pittsburgh Pirates, dropping two one-run games to Atlanta but winning the other two series. They took three of four from the Los Angeles Angels, who have perhaps baseball’s top two stars in Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani, before embarking on this road trip against two AL East foes who reached the postseason last year and are vying to return.
Every team in the division has a winning record.
“This year, it’s the ‘AL Beast’ again,” Hays said. “It’s a dogfight every series you play in the AL East.”
And as Hyde said after Wednesday’s comeback, the Orioles are “bulldogs.” They won behind one on the mound Thursday.
“I’m trying to enjoy myself, win, lose or draw,” Gibson said. “We’ve just been winning a lot, so it makes it a little bit more fun.”
Around the horn
- Orioles center fielder Cedric Mullins was not in Thursday’s lineup for what Hyde said was “personal reasons.” Hyde said it would “probably” be a one-day absence for Mullins, who appeared in all of Baltimore’s first 49 games.
- Infielder Ramón Urías, on the 10-day injured list with a left hamstring strain, continued his rehabilitation assignment with a second game for High-A Aberdeen. After going 0-for-2 with three walks as a designated hitter Wednesday, Urías played third base and went 1-for-4.
- Before the game, Hyde said the Orioles were still making a determination on the next steps with reliever Dillon Tate, whose 30-day rehab assignment ended Wednesday. The club will likely either activate Tate from the injured list, where he has spent the season after suffering a right elbow flexor strain in the offseason, or option him to the minors. Tate, who has two minor league options remaining, had a 14.04 ERA in 10 rehab outings.
Rangers at Orioles
Friday, 7:05 p.m.
TV: MASN2, MLB Network
Radio: 97.9 FM, 101.5 FM, 1090 AM