In a division filled with elite pitching, Kevin Gausman is proving early why he stands among the best in the NL West.
Gausman looked like an ace in another stellar start, tossing seven innings of one-run ball with five strikeouts to one walk in the Giants’ 3-2, 10-inning victory over the Padres at Petco Park on Wednesday.
Not only did Gausman record his second consecutive quality start to open the year, but he outdueled Blake Snell in the process. The former Cy Young winner allowed two runs and struck out eight, but walked four and was limited to five innings due to several high-stress frames.
“It’s fun going up against a guy that has incredible stuff,” Gausman said. “Anytime you face a guy that’s won a Cy Young, you want to beat him. It definitely elevates your game a little bit more.”
Gausman effectively neutralized the heart of San Diego’s lineup, holding Jake Cronenworth, Wil Myers, Manny Machado and Eric Hosmer to one hit in 12 at-bats (Machado reached on an error).
“Gausman, until he runs out of pitches, when he’s pitching the way he did today, he always feels like the guy who can go through the toughest parts of the lineup,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “You just want to keep giving him the baseball."
Despite the fine outing, Gausman was saddled with a second consecutive no-decision. Myers, who has haunted San Francisco for years, hit a solo homer off reliever Tyler Rogers in the bottom of the eighth, tying the game and erasing Gausman’s shot at his first win of the year.
While Gausman has yet to log his first win of 2021, there’s no questioning he has put the Giants in prime position to win. Through two starts, Gausman has only yielded two earned runs and three walks across 13 2/3 innings (1.32 ERA) with 11 strikeouts. Dating back to last season, Gausman has allowed two earned runs or fewer in his last seven starts, owning a 2.19 ERA as a starter during that span.
“His stuff is electric,” said outfielder Darin Ruf, who hit a two-run home run in the second. “He’s a competitor and when you have that guy on the mound, you know you’re going to be in the game no matter what.”
Gausman’s uptick in velocity was also noteworthy. Against the Padres, he averaged 95 mph on his fastball, up from his 93.6 mph average versus the Mariners on Opening Day. Gausman was willing to add extra zest to his heaters when necessary, touching 96 mph or faster on 14 pitches.
Gausman’s most impressive display of velocity came with his back against the wall in the sixth inning. On his 85th pitch of the afternoon, Gausman fired a 98 mph fastball right on the inside edge to strike out Luis Campusano looking and escape a two-on, two-out jam.
“I honestly try not to look at it too much,” Gausman said. “Because even on the days where you might be down a couple ticks, you don’t necessarily want to know that.”
Gausman was the latest member of San Francisco’s starting rotation to tally up the zeros. Against the Padres’ potent offense, Gausman, Anthony DeSclafani and Aaron Sanchez allowed just three earned runs (one each) in 17 combined innings. In six games, the Giants’ rotation has a 2.63 ERA and surrendered just one home run.
“I think they’ve all done a nice job,” Kapler said. “They’ve given us a chance to win baseball games. Both of those lineups [Seattle and San Diego] are strong lineups. In particular, this Padres lineup is extremely dangerous. Trying to get through this lineup three times is a huge challenge for anybody.”