Unfortunately for the Blue Jays, Gausman turned in one of his worst outings of the season, allowing four earned runs in 4.2 innings and walking more batters (6) than he struck out (5) for the first time since July 24, 2021.
The walks were particularly shocking for a guy who had only conceded more than three bases on balls in two of his 59 starts as a Blue Jay prior to Thursday. In the context of a Blue Jays team that's been characterized by underachievement, it would be easy to pile on Gausman for failing to come up in a big game.
But that's not entirely fair. The right-hander's teammates have let him down far more than the other way around by consistently failing to provide run support.
Gausman is having an excellent season that will put him on plenty of Cy Young ballots. Even after Thursday's tough outing, he leads all American League pitchers in fWAR (4.9) and strikeouts (222).
There are plenty of things wrong with the 2023 Blue Jays, but Gausman hasn't often been one of them. Part of what has troubled the team is that star performances have been hard to come by. None of Toronto's position players rank in the top 50 in the majors in fWAR.
Matt Chapman is the team's top hitter in that regard (3.2 fWAR) and he accumulated most of his value back in a scorching-hot April (2.0).
What Toronto ought to be concerned about with Gausman isn't some kind of isolated failure to rise to the moment on Thursday. Instead, a Blue Jays team with minimal margin for error should worry about how the veteran's performance against the Rangers is part of a larger trend of shaky appearances in the second half.
Since Gausman was scratched from a start on July 15 due to side soreness, he's produced his worst 10-start stretch of the season by ERA.
That middling performance is backed by far wore peripherals, with a FIP far worse than what he's produced at any time during his Blue Jays tenure.
Gausman has allowed more home runs in his last 10 starts (10) than he did in his first 19 (9) and his BB/9 has jumped by 1.10.
The good news for the righty is his velocity has been relatively stable on a month-to-month basis aside from a small dip in July...
... and the same can be said about his vertical movement — a crucial metric for a pitcher who relies on high heaters and splitters that fall off the table:
His repertoire hasn't been meaningfully compromised, which likely means his side discomfort hasn't lingered in a meaningful way.
Instead, his issues seem to be with command. Home runs can have an element of flukiness to them, but they are a strong indicator of whether a pitcher is finding the right parts of the strike zone — and the increase in walks shows Gausman has been struggling to find it at times.
Command problems are notoriously finicky and there's no obvious solution to what's been ailing Gausman. Despite his wobbles he's still been an above-average pitcher in the second half of the season, but the Blue Jays need him to be great.
Perhaps that's an unfair standard, but it's one he's set for himself in his first one-and-a-half years as a Blue Jay — and with his excellent seasons with the San Francisco Giants in 2020 and '21.
Toronto wouldn't even be hovering around the playoff picture without Gausman's stellar contributions in 2023. He has been the one true star the Blue Jays have had all year.
While making the postseason is already improbable, it could be impossible if he can't return to form in the crucial games to come.