Kyle Gibson pitches like an ace as Orioles clinch series win over Yankees

Published 5/25/2023 10:05 p.m. EDT, Updated 5/26/2023 9:07 a.m. EDT

Kyle Gibson #48 of the Baltimore Orioles delivers a pitch during the first inning against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on May 25, 2023 in Bronx, New York.
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NEW YORK — This may or may not have been what the Orioles bargained for when they signed right-hander Kyle Gibson during the offseason.

He was seen then as a steadying presence for a young rotation. He was envisioned as a consistent innings eater. He brought value, certainly, but at $10 million for one year, he wasn’t the flashiest signing of the winter.

And yet, on Thursday night, he delivered like a player worth far more.

Gibson, in his efficient manner, mowed through the New York Yankees to secure Baltimore’s fourth straight series win against an American League East rival. It came in the form of a 3-1 victory for Baltimore (33-17) in which Gibson pitched seven scoreless innings and allowed just two hits.

While Gibson walked four batters, he maneuvered around one of the most dangerous lineups in the league, just as he has in several other matchups against baseball’s best. In starts against the Texas Rangers, Tampa Bay Rays, Toronto Blue Jays and Yankees — all power-packed lineups — Gibson has thrown a combined 27 innings with just five runs against him.

“He’s got so much experience in the big leagues that environments don’t faze him,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “He’s faced good lineups before. He knows what his strengths are. He does an incredible job of preparing and game planning for the start and how his stuff plays against the opposing lineup.”

During spring training, Gibson openly admitted he wasn’t an ace. But in the biggest moments that’s what Gibson has pitched like. For the first time since 2021, the Orioles held the Yankees to three hits or fewer in a game. And the Orioles have won consecutive series at Yankee Stadium for the first time since 2014, per Elias Sports Bureau.

For so long, the Orioles have been the punching bag of the American League East. But now?

“I think we’re one of the best teams. We’re one of those juggernauts,” Gibson said. “You look at how this team’s made up, and the leaders on this team — not just veteran guys, I’m talking young guys too — you look at how they’re competing, they’re not fazed by any environment. They’re not fazed by any game situation — losing, ahead in the seventh, whatever it might be. They’ve got a level head about themselves all the time, and that’s just kind of rare for a younger team.”

At the 50-game mark, Baltimore is proving these wins aren’t a fluke. It is narrowly trailing the Rays for the best record in baseball.

“We played a lot of close games last year that we felt like we could’ve won, and we just, for whatever reason, couldn’t come out on the other side of some of those games,” outfielder Austin Hays said. “Being on the losing end of them last year, we learned a lot as a group. And we’re just finding a way to come out on the other side of them this year.”

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After a leadoff single by Gleyber Torres in the first inning, Gibson didn’t allow another hit until Willie Calhoun singled to begin the seventh inning. He struck out three hitters and used his sweeper effectively, although in small doses. On five swings against that offering, Gibson induced four whiffs. And, of the 10 balls put in play on Gibson’s sinker, Yankees batters went just 1-for-10.

Baltimore’s lineup offered little room for Gibson to operate, with one breakthrough against right-hander Clarke Schmidt in his five innings. Adam Frazier, who extended his on-base streak to a career-high 18 games with a double, scored on Anthony Santander’s third single of the game.

Once Gibson had departed, Hays’ two-run double in the eighth inning made the final two innings easier for right-handers Mike Baumann and Yennier Cano. Baumann struck out two batters in a clean eighth before Cano shut the door on his fourth save this season. Cano issued his first walk of the season (in 25 2/3 innings) and gave up a run.

Before then, though, Gibson’s final test in what was a one-run game at the time was in the seventh, with his pitch count rising and Calhoun on first. Gibson struck out shortstop Anthony Volpe. Then, on a ground ball from Oswaldo Cabrera, Gibson stretched as if he’d played first base all his life to secure the inning-ending double play.

Gibson is generally stoic. The passion he shows is often on his days off, when he celebrates his teammates in the dugout after home runs. But, for a split second, Gibson skipped off first base in a way that appeared as though he might break his typical stolid demeanor.

“Anytime you can take advantage of those plays there and get out of an inning, that’s why you’re going to see a little bit of the emotion come out,” Gibson said. “That was a big spot right there.”

If there was ever going to be a moment to do it, that was it, having pitched a gem at Yankee Stadium.

“That was a masterful performance,” Hyde said. “Huge series win here, and move on to tomorrow.”