Mike Tauchman did it again.
For the second time this year, Tauchman made a leaping catch at the left-field wall to rob a home run, pulling back a game-tying shot from Nationals star Juan Soto in the seventh inning to help preserve a shutout for right-hander Anthony DeSclafani in a 1-0 win for the Giants on Friday night at Nationals Park.
Soto drove a 3-2 changeup from DeSclafani deep to left, but Tauchman raced back and timed his jump perfectly, reaching over the wall to snag the ball in front of the Giants’ bullpen.
“Man, that was insane,” DeSclafani said. “Obviously, huge catch. If you don’t make that, it’s a tie ballgame, and I probably don’t go nine. Huge catch. Obviously, a big part of our win and a big reason we won. It was awesome.”
Soto couldn’t believe it, throwing his hands up in disbelief, but Tauchman’s thievery was nothing new for the Giants, who also saw the 30-year-old outfielder rob Albert Pujols of a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning at Dodger Stadium on May 28.
“It’s crazy,” Tauchman said. “The opportunities are pretty few and far between for those. Really with any ball, it’s trying to get a good break on it, take a good route -- especially on balls around the wall, you try to get there early. I was fortunate to make a play for the team.”
Tauchman’s catch helped DeSclafani complete his third career shutout and his second of the year, a huge boost for a Giants pitching staff that is bracing for a doubleheader on Saturday and will play 11 games in 10 days before the next scheduled off-day on June 21. DeSclafani showed his appreciation for Tauchman by thrusting his hands in the air and pumping his fists in pure elation.
“He was fired up,” Tauchman said. “I was fired up, too, because he obviously pitched his butt off tonight. Complete-game shutouts are not easy to come by in the big leagues, and with the pressure of a 1-0 game, he had no margin for error. He was awesome. He was fired up, I was fired up, and I think the whole team was.”
The Giants had already planned to give DeSclafani extra rest in between starts, and the 31-year-old right-hander received further respite when Thursday’s series opener in Washington, D.C., was postponed due to inclement weather.
DeSclafani certainly looked fresh pitching on seven days’ rest on Friday night, holding the Nationals to two hits while walking one and striking out eight in the 103-pitch effort. DeSclafani, who also fired a three-hit shutout against the Rockies at Oracle Park on April 26, became the first Giants pitcher with multiple shutouts in a season since Johnny Cueto in 2016.
“I felt good,” said DeSclafani, who improved to 6-2 with a 3.09 ERA this season. “I had two extra days of rest this time around, so it kind of helped. I kind of had everything working for the most part.”
DeSclafani was expected to duel Nationals ace Max Scherzer, but their pitching matchup was cut short after Scherzer departed with a groin injury in the first inning. Scherzer retired leadoff hitter LaMonte Wade Jr and got to a 3-2 count against Brandon Belt before he was forced to leave the game after throwing only 12 pitches.
Despite Scherzer’s early exit, Friday’s game still proved to be a low-scoring affair, as Buster Posey accounted for the lone run of the game with his 11th home run of the year, a solo shot off Paolo Espino in the fourth inning.
DeSclafani made sure the slim lead held up, consistently getting ahead of hitters and using a pair of double plays to face only one over the minimum on Friday. He relied primarily on his slider and his four-seam fastball, but he also mixed in more changeups than usual, which he felt was a key weapon for him against the Nationals.
DeSclafani has used his changeup 9.8% of the time this year, but he threw the pitch 17 times (17%) on Friday and induced 10 swings, five fouls and four balls in play.
“I think the difference-maker today was probably my changeup,” DeSclafani said. “That was probably my highest usage of my changeup all season -- it might even be [the highest] of my career, honestly. I’ve been working on some mechanical changes, and I felt good with it tonight. Hopefully that pitch can kind of do what it did tonight moving forward.”
DeSclafani endured a minor injury scare after tweaking his left wrist on a swing in his final at-bat of the night in the eighth and received a visit from Giants athletic trainer Anthony Reyes when he returned to the dugout. DeSclafani said he’s been feeling the issue in some practice swings the past few weeks, but he was cleared to return to the mound and retired the final six batters he faced to help the Giants improve to a National League-best 39-23 record this year.
“He threw the changeup really well, commanded it well,” Posey said. “He was getting good action on it from the first inning on, but he also mixed the fastball and the slider, with a couple curveballs mixed in there. I think to throw a complete-game shutout, you’ve got to be firing on all cylinders.”