BALTIMORE---Before this series between the leaders of the American League East and West began, the Texas Rangers had the league’s best record.
After two games, the Orioles now do.
On consecutive nights, the Orioles beat two of the league’s best, Yu Darvish and Cole Hamels, and it was two of the Orioles young guns, Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman, who did it.
Through two innings, Gausman had thrown 50 pitches, allowed two runs, and looked like a pitcher who wouldn’t give the Orioles what they needed.
Instead, Gausman soldiered through seven innings, and helped give the Orioles their third straight win.
The Orioles’ 3-2 win over the Texas Rangers before 24,552 at Oriole Park on Wednesday night, secured their hold on first place in the American League East.
“I think the step-ups come from our pitcher. You know those guys’ runs are going to be at a premium. Our guys, you’ve got to be ready to go first inning,” manager Buck Showalter said.
Gausman struck out the game’s first two batters, then Carlos Beltran hit a home run, his 22nd, in his second game with Texas (62-46).
The Orioles (61-45) took a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the first against Cole Hamels. With one out, Jonathan Schoop singled, and Manny Machado lined a ball off first baseman Mitch Moreland’s glove at first. It wound up in right field, and there were runners at second and third.
Mark Trumbo grounded to short, and Schoop scored while Machado was out at third. Chris Davis and Steve Pearce walked to load the bases, and Matt Wieters singled to center, scoring Trumbo and Davis.
Those were all the runs the Orioles scored, and all they would need.
“Hamel’s having a great year. You can make a case for him being the leading candidate for the Cy Young. But it wasn’t like we beat him up or anything. We had one shot at it and we took advantage of it. And our pitching made it hold up. And the defense,” Showalter said.
Gausman (3-8) labored through the second inning, and the Rangers scored on a leadoff double by Rougned Odor and a single by Jonathan Lucroy.
“When the guys put up three on him, I knew that probably wasn’t going to happen again,” Gausman said. “Runs are at a premium in games like this and you knew that he was going to lock it down and throw up some O’s for them. I just kind of tried to do the same thing.”
In the next four innings, Gausman gave up three hits, but nifty double plays started by J.J. Hardy in the fifth and Davis in the sixth helped out tremendously.
“Any time you can kind of limit that damage and not let it get out of control it’s going to be good and it’s going to be in your favor,” Gausman said. “With our defense, if you get a guy on first base, you’re always one pitch away from getting a double play and getting out of it.”
Gausman allowed two runs on seven hits.
Hamels (12-3) didn’t allow another hit until Trumbo led off the sixth with a base hit and left after seven.
Darren O’Day retired all three batters he faced in the eighth, and Zach Britton finished up the ninth for his 33rd save. It’s the most consecutive saves by a left-hander to start a season in baseball history, and he has 106 lifetime saves, third most by an Orioles reliever and most by a left-hander.
Britton walked Odor with one out in the ninth, but with Lucroy off, threw a pitch off the plate that Wieters scampered after. He threw to second to get Odor for the second out.
“I knew he was an aggressive runner. I didn’t really have time to check and see if he was going. I just kind of assumed he was going and just spun. And the ball just happened to come out good right to second base,” Wieters said.
The Orioles are 39-16 at home, and 22-29 on the road. After Thursday’s game, they have a 10-game road trip to Chicago, Oakland and San Francisco.
“We’re playing some good teams. If you look at our schedule, it’s a top-rated schedule the rest of the way. You know what? Our guys are pretty good, too. They enjoy the competition. They don’t shirk from it. They like people telling them they shouldn’t be able to do it. They like proving people wrong. They’ve done that for quite a while,” Showalter said.
NOTES: A.J. Griffin (4-1, 3.99) faces Wade Miley (7-8, 4.98) on Thursday night. It will be Miley’s Orioles debut. … The time of the game was two hours, 26 minutes, quickest of the season.