BALTIMORE — For much of the first half of the season, the Baltimore Orioles were selective and cautious with their use of rookie Kevin Gausman.
Now that things are getting serious, Gausman has become a fixture in a starting rotation that has thrust the Orioles into first place in the AL East.
Gausman pitched seven innings of three-hit ball, Adam Jones homered and the Orioles beat the Los Angeles Angels 4-3 on Wednesday night for their seventh win in nine games.
From April through mid-July, Gausman bounced between Baltimore and the minor leagues to keep his innings-count down. Those restrictions are no longer in place, and the 2012 first-round draft pick looks rather comfortable being part of a pennant push.
Gausman (5-3) retired the first 14 batters he faced and ended up allowing three runs and three walks in his first career start against the Angels.
"I was just establishing my fastball in and out," he said. "I think they had a little bit of trouble with that, especially (when) I was getting some pitches down in the zone that I loved, which was great for me. I just felt in rhythm and in control and I was able to slow it down when I needed to and speed it up when I wanted to."
Angels leadoff hitter Kole Calhoun said of Gausman: "He threw his pitches well. He obviously has electric stuff. He's got some good off-speed pitches to complement the good fastball. He threw the ball well, he kept the ball down and they made some great plays behind him too."
Darren O'Day struck out two in a perfect eighth and Zach Britton gave up a single in the ninth before earning his 21st save.
The victory lifted the AL East-leading Orioles to 14 games over .500 (60-46) for the first time July 22, 2013.
"We've been able to stay where we are because of the pitching," manager Buck Showalter said.
Garrett Richards (11-4) gave up four runs and six hits in seven innings. It was his second straight defeat following a seven-game winning streak.
Jones put the Orioles up 2-0 with a two-run homer, his second in two nights. It was his 21st of the season and 11th in the first inning.
In the Baltimore fourth, David Lough picked up his first RBI since June 7 with a double and scored on a single by Ryan Flaherty.
Gausman got some early help from his defense. Right fielder Nick Markakis made a sprawling catch in the third and third baseman Manny Machado snared a grounder down the line and staggered deep into foul territory before throwing out Albert Pujols in the fourth.
The Angels' first hit was a two-run single by Chris Iannetta in the fifth inning after Gausman walked the bases loaded. Calhoun followed with an RBI double.
Angels: Left-hander C.J. Wilson (right ankle sprain) threw in the Camden Yards bullpen and remains on course for a possible return from the 15-day DL this weekend.
Orioles: First baseman Chris Davis missed a second straight game with a stomach virus. ... Right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez (right ankle sprain) will likely make his final rehabilitative start Sunday or Monday for Triple-A Norfolk. After his rehab start for Class A Aberdeen on Tuesday, he paid for a postgame spread of steak and lobster.
Angels: Left-hander Tyler Skaggs (5-5, 4.49 ERA) will make his first career start against the Orioles on Thursday night. Skaggs has not walked more than one batter in each of five starts since coming off the disabled list with a right hamstring strain.
Orioles: Bud Norris seeks to continue his mastery of the Angels. In three career starts against LA, the right-hander is 3-0 with a 0.46 ERA.
Not so fast: C.J. Cron thought he had just taken ball four leading off the third inning. He flipped the bat toward the Los Angeles dugout and began jogging in the direction of first base. But it was only ball three. So, after umpire Kerwin Danley waved him back to the plate, Cron grounded out on a 3-2 pitch.