This isn’t the way Kyle Gibson has acquitted himself to the Orioles over his previous 15 starts. In what has become a theme for this Baltimore team, the right-handed starting pitcher experienced a resurgence after a difficult end to his time with the Philadelphia Phillies — a resurgence that led to five quality starts in his last eight attempts.
Friday night showed Gibson in a different light, though, one Baltimore hasn’t seen.
Gibson exited after three innings — his shortest Orioles start — and gave up the second-most runs of his season in what became a 13-1 loss to the Mariners. By falling in the series opener, the Orioles have dropped five of their last eight games, and their bullpen was under immediate stress — and cracked under it — to begin a nine-game, 10-day homestand at Camden Yards.
“That was pretty ugly,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “Not our night. Let it go and come back tomorrow ready to play.”
Baltimore’s lineup managed little against Mariners right-hander Logan Gilbert, anyway. But Gibson allowing four runs in the third inning rendered a comeback farfetched, even for a club that has already racked up 25 come-from-behind victories this season.
The 26-year-old Gilbert mowed through the Orioles (45-29) with two hits against him, including Anthony Santander’s seventh-inning homer. After Austin Hays’ second-inning single, Gilbert retired 15 straight batters in one of the most dominant starting pitching performances against Baltimore this year.
“We didn’t square many balls up against him,” Hyde said. “Not much going on offensively against him.”
Gibson, meanwhile, showed shades of his final month with Philadelphia. Last September Gibson conceded five or more runs in four of his six appearances, leaving himself in a relief role during the postseason.
But Gibson, 35, has shown a critical combination of clubhouse leadership and on-field results in his time with Baltimore. He joined this offseason on a one-year, $10-million contract and has performed for much of the year as the ace of a young staff — despite openly declaring in spring training that he was no ace, opening day starter or not.
He’s an innings eater, largely, who has done that well for the Orioles. Even with Gibson’s three-inning outing Friday that included five runs, seven hits, three walks and four strikeouts, he’s averaging 5.75 innings across 16 appearances with a 4.30 ERA. It’s not breathtaking, but it offers a sense of stability.
“I feel like all year, for the most part, I’ve been doing a good job of getting a ground ball, getting a strikeout, getting an out when I need it,” Gibson said.
That stability was rocked for the first time in the second inning Friday, when Gibson required 35 pitches to get through the side. He allowed one run on Tom Murphy’s sacrifice fly but avoided more damage by striking out Mariners star Julio Rodriguez to strand the bases loaded.
Yet in the third, Gibson’s outing completely unraveled. Two runs crossed between Eugenio Suarez’s single and Kolten Wong’s sacrifice fly, but Murphy’s 418-foot two-run homer to left field was the largest blow.
“I even told Skip after the third I could go out and try to save the bullpen for an inning, but it’s just one of those nights,” Gibson said. “Except for the walks, I probably got to two strikes or did an OK job. I got some swing and miss. But when I needed to make a pitch, I just didn’t do it.”
On May 3, Gibson allowed a season-high six runs and 10 hits to the Kansas City Royals, but he still pushed through 6 2/3 innings, minimizing how much the bullpen had to carry.
On Friday, Gibson compiled the shortest outing from an Orioles starter since right-hander Kyle Bradish’s 2 2/3 innings on May 25. In doing so, four Baltimore relievers (and infielder Josh Lester) handled the final six innings, with the largest slide occurring in the eighth. Left-hander Keegan Akin allowed a walk, then five straight two-out singles as the Mariners piled on seven insurance runs in the frame.
Gibson’s durability has allowed him to make 30 or more starts each season in the major leagues, and in any stretch that long there are bound to be duds. Gibson is already more than halfway to those 30. And in these 16 appearances, Gibson has proven to be a reliable arm — so reliable, in fact, that an outing such as Friday’s stands out even more in contrast.
“You’re going to lose, I don’t know, 70 to 80 games, depending on how well you play,” Gibson said. “It’s just one of those games. It’s just one of those weird ones where a couple big innings did us in, and you’ve got to be able to flush it and not let one loss turn into two.”