Giants 'set tone' with shutout vs. Phils

April 20th, 2021

When Phillies second baseman Jean Segura hustled into second base for his 200th career double in the fourth inning on Monday night, he received a rousing ovation from the 9,510 fans in attendance and tipped his helmet to the crowd as his feat was acknowledged on the Citizens Bank Park scoreboard.

San Francisco manager Gabe Kapler did not receive as warm of a reception when he was featured on PhanaVision shortly before first pitch. Back in town for the first time since he was dismissed in October 2019 following two underwhelming seasons at the helm of the Phillies, Kapler was booed by fans and mocked by the Phillie Phanatic when he emerged from the visiting dugout for the lineup card exchange. The Phanatic poked fun at Kapler’s famously toned physique, lifting up his jersey to show off his “abs” and doing sit-ups on the field.

In the end, though, Kapler got the last laugh. Behind six scoreless innings from right-hander , and a timely home run from , the Giants defeated the Phillies, 2-0, in the series opener to improve to 10-6, their best start since 2014.

With the win, Kapler became the first manager to go 200-200 over his first 400 games, according to Stats, LLC. Kapler said he and the rest of the Giants’ coaching staff commemorated the milestone victory with a celebratory toast in the manager’s office after the game. They were joined by Gausman, who happened to be walking by as the glasses were being raised.

“I just kind of saw a big group going in there, and there were some glasses being held up, so I was like, ‘What are we celebrating?’” Gausman said. “I had no idea. I’m happy that I got to be a part of it. Hopefully it’s a big win for him. First time coming back to Philly, so it was a good way to set the tone for the rest of the series.”

Outwardly, at least, Kapler did not express any additional satisfaction at beating the Phillies, who dropped to 8-8 under Joe Girardi this year.

“I’m just kind of focused on doing a good job with the San Francisco Giants,” Kapler said. “That’s genuinely how I feel.”

The Giants didn’t record a shutout in Kapler’s first season as manager, but they already have four this year after blanking the Marlins and Phillies in back-to-back games. Backup has been behind the plate for each of them, making him the first Giants catcher to catch a shutout in four consecutive starts since Broadway Aleck Smith accomplished the feat on May 6-24, 1901, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Though Gausman didn’t have his sharpest command and grinded through several stressful innings in the 108-pitch effort, the Phillies went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position and left 10 runners stranded against him on Monday.

“I thought Gausman was especially resilient tonight,” Kapler said. “He wasn’t lights-out stuff -- I think he’ll tell you the same. He was just a fighter today, and I think that’s the reason he was able to do what he did.”

Gausman induced 14 swinging strikes, including nine on his devastating splitter. The 30-year-old veteran used his best pitch to escape a treacherous jam in the fourth, when the Phillies put runners on second and third with no outs. Gausman struck out Mickey Moniak and Nick Maton on splitters, then used the same pitch to coax an inning-ending groundout from pinch-hitter Brad Miller.

“I just kind of got lucky with the guys who were coming up to the plate in that inning,” Gausman said. “Two young guys who are left-handed hitters -- I was just kind of pitching to my strengths. I knew I was going to make them beat me with my best pitch. I always feel confident throwing it against lefties.”  

Gausman, who lowered his ERA to 2.45 over his first four starts, hadn’t given up a hit on his splitter this season until Rhys Hoskins singled off the pitch in the third. Opposing batters hit only .097 against Gausman’s splitter in 2020. 

“I joked with Andrew Bailey, our pitching coach -- I was like, ‘I should just throw that pitch every time,’” Gausman said. “It’s a big pitch for me.”

Belt helped back Gausman with his third home run of the year, a two-run shot off Phillies right-hander Chase Anderson in the third. After hitting .154 over his first 13 games of the season, Belt has finally begun to heat up, going 4-for-12 with two doubles and two home runs over his last three games.

The Giants’ longtime first baseman had a short ramp-up to the regular season after missing a sizable chunk of Spring Training due to a bout of mononucleosis, but Belt feels he’s close to finding his rhythm at the plate and regaining the form he enjoyed in 2020, when he hit a career-high .309 with a 1.015 OPS over 51 games.

“I think I’m pretty close,” Belt said. “I’ve pretty much felt like that the whole time. I don’t feel amazing right now, but I’m grinding out at-bats and trying to take care of mistakes. That’s what I’ve been able to do.”