SAN FRANCISCO -- A day that began with so much promise ended on a frustrating note for Kevin Gausman, who carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning but ultimately found himself on the losing end of a pitchers’ duel after the Giants were defeated, 5-3, by the Cardinals in Monday afternoon’s series opener at Oracle Park.
Gausman, one day removed from earning his first career All-Star selection, didn’t allow a hit through his first six innings before his bid for history was broken up by longtime Giants tormenter and former Rockies star Nolan Arenado, who delivered a one-out single to left field to spark a two-run rally for the Cardinals in the seventh.
The 30-year-old right-hander received a nice ovation from the 32,644 in attendance for his effort, but he lost his shutout bid three batters later when he surrendered a two-out, two-run triple to Matt Carpenter.
Gausman departed after allowing two runs on three hits while walking two and striking out eight over seven innings. Despite working the longest no-hit bid of his career, his ERA rose from 1.68 to 1.74, a remarkable sign of how dominant he’s been for the Giants this year.
San Francisco’s bats couldn’t reward Gausman's latest gem, as they mustered only three hits against St. Louis left-hander Kwang Hyun Kim, who tossed seven scoreless innings to outduel the righty. The Giants finally got on the board after Kim exited the game, as pinch-hitter Alex Dickerson came through with a solo shot off Cardinals reliever Giovanny Gallegos in the eighth.
The Giants made it interesting by scoring two runs in the ninth to cut the deficit to 5-3, but Cardinals closer Alex Reyes struck out LaMonte Wade Jr. with a runner on third to end the game.
“I’m proud of the way we fought in the ninth and that we were able to string some good at-bats together,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “As a general effort, I don’t think it was our best overall. I thought Gausman was excellent.”
Leaning heavily on his trademark fastball-splitter combination, Gausman was nearly untouchable through the first six innings, issuing only a pair of walks and retiring 12 consecutive batters at one point.
Gausman also benefited from tremendous defense from the Giants, who made several outstanding plays to support their ace. After Paul Goldschmidt reached on a one-out walk in the first, Arenado sent a drive deep to left field, but Thairo Estrada -- who was making his first start in the outfield for San Francisco -- raced back to the warning track and made a leaping catch at the wall to record the out.
Goldschmidt, another familiar villain for the Giants, later opened the fourth by sending a jam shot to shallow center field, but second baseman Donovan Solano sprinted back and made a lunging grab to rob the former D-backs first baseman.
Right fielder Jaylin Davis followed with the defensive highlight of the afternoon in the fifth. After Carpenter reached on a one-out walk, Davis made a diving catch to take a hit away from Harrison Bader and then quickly flipped to Darin Ruf at first base to complete the 9-3 double play to end the inning. Davis’ second start of the season for San Francisco ended prematurely, however, as he was removed from the game after suffering a left hamstring strain in the seventh inning. He will undergo an MRI on Tuesday.
“Man, early on and really the whole game, the defense was unbelievable for me,” Gausman said. “They played amazing for me. … I thought maybe it was going to be something special. Unfortunately, it didn’t end that way.”
Opposing hitters entered Monday batting only .098 against Gausman’s devastating splitter, but Arenado managed to ignite the Cardinals’ offense after fouling off a nasty 1-2 offering and then singling to left on another slider with one out in the seventh.
“He’s obviously one of the best third basemen, if not the best third baseman, in baseball,” Gausman said. “That’s what good players do. They make an adjustment. I was amazed that he went and fouled off the previous pitch. It was a really good pitch that he happened to go get. The split on the base hit was really a pretty good pitch, too, but he’s very good, so you’ve just got to mix it up with him.”
Tommy Edman then bounced a single to the nearly vacated left side of the infield to put runners on first and second for Carpenter, who smoked a 2-2 fastball off the wall in left-center field to snap a scoreless tie and give St. Louis a 2-0 lead. Austin Slater appeared to think Carpenter’s drive was heading over the fence and slowed down as he reached the wall, allowing the ball to kick past him in center field and resulting in a triple for Carpenter, who came into the game batting only .177.
“I think he thought it was going to be a home run, so he didn’t play it the best way he could have off the wall,” Kapler said. “I don’t think there was any chance he was going to catch the ball. It was really driven, and the ball was carrying well today, but I do think he could have played it more effectively off the wall.”