Gausman's gem wasted as SF falls in extras

May 15th, 2021

Kevin Gausman continued to show why he’s the ace of San Francisco's elite starting rotation, but the Giants squandered his latest gem in a heartbreaking 3-2 walk-off loss to the Pirates in 11 innings on Friday night at PNC Park.

Gausman struck out a career-high 12 and carried a shutout into the ninth inning, but he didn’t receive much help from his bats and ultimately couldn’t preserve the Giants’ slim 1-0 lead. The 30-year-old right-hander quickly fell into trouble after giving up back-to-back singles to Adam Frazier and Kevin Newman, putting runners on the corners with no outs for Pittsburgh.

Manager Gabe Kapler opted to lift Gausman in favor of closer Jake McGee, who gave up a single to former Giants prospect Bryan Reynolds, tying the game at 1-1. McGee then struck out the next three batters he faced on 10 consecutive fastballs to force extra innings.

The Giants briefly went ahead in the top of the 11th, when Brandon Crawford opened the inning at second as the automatic runner. Crawford, who homered to give the Giants a 1-0 lead in the eighth, advanced to third on a flyout by Mauricio Dubón before scoring on Austin Slater’s jam shot to right field off Pirates reliever Luis Oviedo.

Pittsburgh responded with two runs in the bottom half of the inning, as left-hander Caleb Baragar surrendered a game-tying leadoff triple to Frazier, followed by a sacrifice fly to Gregory Polanco that brought home the decisive run for the Pirates. It was the first earned run Baragar had allowed since Aug. 12, 2020, against the Astros.

Gausman was charged with one run on five hits and no walks over eight-plus innings, lowering his ERA to 1.84 on the season, tied with the Marlins’ Trevor Rogers for the fifth-lowest mark in the Majors. Gausman became the first Giants pitcher to whiff at least 12 batters since Madison Bumgarner struck out 14 on July 10, 2016, against the D-backs.  

“It was a game that he kind of poured his heart into,” Kapler said. “He pitched brilliantly. We came out on the losing end. I would expect him to be disappointed, just like we all are.”

Despite his dominance on the mound, Gausman said afterward that he didn’t feel 100% during the 96-pitch outing. He didn’t have his best fastball, but he continued to lean heavily on his devastating splitter, which induced 16 of his 21 whiffs and resulted in 10 of his 12 strikeouts.  

“Obviously, the outcome was pretty good, but it was a grind,” Gausman said. “Physically, I felt like I couldn’t find my delivery. I just kind of felt out of whack.” 

Not that his teammates noticed.  

“It’s surprising to hear that, because he looked pretty good tonight,” Crawford said. “I mean, a lot of the swing and misses today were obviously with the split, but his fastball looked good, too. He was locating it on both sides of the plate. The splitter is one of the best pitches, I think, in baseball out of any pitchers.” 

Gausman also benefited from an outstanding effort from center fielder Steven Duggar, who made a fantastic diving catch to rob Newman and keep the scoreless tie intact in the fourth. Duggar had only a 15% catch probability on the play, as he had to cover 48 feet in only 3.3 seconds, giving him the first five-star catch of his career.

“That was a huge play,” Kapler said. “I really think that set the tone for us on defense. He got an excellent jump on that ball -- laid down completely. The only way he makes that play is if he gets a perfect jump, takes a perfect route and has really good accuracy with the glove there.”  

Gausman, the Giants’ Opening Day starter, has once again emerged as the club’s most consistent pitcher in his second season in San Francisco, leading a rotation that leads the Majors with a 2.82 ERA this year. The strength of the starting staff has obscured some of the offensive issues for the Giants, who mustered only four hits against right-hander Miguel Yajure and five Pirates relievers on Friday, one of which came from Gausman. 

Kapler and Crawford noted that PNC Park has been a difficult hitting environment early in games due to the shadows that linger on the field at the 6:30 p.m. start time.

“I feel like we always seem to have trouble with guys we haven’t seen before,” Crawford said. “[Yajure] was one of those guys. The shadows here also aren’t great -- the sun reflecting off the batter’s eye ... the first few innings. A lot of guys were saying it was tough to see. That could have played into it a little bit. We didn’t get off to a real hot start yesterday, either.”    

The Giants are also without three of their better hitters in Donovan Solano (right calf strain), Alex Dickerson (right shoulder impingement) and Tommy La Stella (left hamstring strain), but they’re hoping to get a couple of those pieces back in their lineup soon. Dickerson could return as early as Sunday, and Solano is expected to begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Sacramento this weekend.  

“I was really confident in the lineup that we put out there today,” Kapler said. “You’re going to have games like this. You’re going to have stretches like this, and we’ve had stretches where we’ve scored a bunch of runs. I trust that those stretches are coming again for us, but we just didn’t get the job done tonight.”