SAN DIEGO — They added plenty of drama to the eventual result, but maybe the Giants just wanted to head back home to their fans riding the momentum of one late thrill.
The Giants were cruising until they coughed up their lead in the eighth inning, only to redeem themselves in the 10th for a rollicking victory in San Diego that sends them back to San Francisco as a .500 team. The opening few series have been adventurous, but they will take a 3-3 record before they host the Rockies with fans in the stands.
Kevin Gausman was outstanding, Darin Ruf had some assistance on a home run and the bullpen was excellent apart from one Tyler Rogers pitch. The Giants wore down Blake Snell to steal the series and game, 3-2, at Petco Park on Wednesday.
The winning run was the first the Giants had scored in the series that did not result from a home run. With ghost-runner Alex Dickerson starting on second, Austin Slater moved him over and Donovan Solano lined a sacrifice just deep enough to Wil Myers in right to get the heavy-legged Dickerson across safely.
Wandy Peralta got the impressive save, using three sliders to strike out Jorge Mateo before inducing a Tucupita Marcano flyout. An inning prior, it was Jake McGee who pitched another scoreless inning, the de facto closer immediately the most trusted in the pen.
Rogers might be ranked second, but not by the fanbase. The Padres tied it in the eighth, when Gausman was finished and the submarining Rogers — who pitches to contact, usually weak — was given the ball. Gabe Kapler shored up the defense behind him, inserting Brandon Crawford at shortstop and pushing Mauricio Dubon to center while Austin Slater moved to left. Those moves do not help when the Padres leave the yard.
Myers, the Giants killer, stroked the solo homer — his 21st against San Francisco in his career — to knot the game at 2 and break a lot of hearts that McGee and Peralta would mend.
For much of the game, the standouts were fliers who did not work out elsewhere but have found legitimate niches with Giants. Gausman is an ace who has realized his potential and Ruf an aging righty bat who destroys southpaws after three years in South Korea. The Giants’ roster is a curious one for a rebuilding team — it’s not particularly young — but they have found creative ways to be competitive.
Ruf’s blast came in the second, crushing a four-seamer from Snell that got too much of the plate. He put the barrel on it and chased center fielder Jorge Mateo — a converted infielder — back to the wall. Mateo leapt, and the ball caromed off his glove and over the fence for a home run that showed how narrow the difference is between an out and a run.
The two-run dinger was the 11th of the Giants’ season and just second with a runner on. It was the second of Ruf’s season
The Giants wore down Snell, the former AL Cy Young winner, who threw 87 pitches and walked four over five innings. The Giants couldn’t get to San Diego’s bullpen until the 10th, but with the aid of the extra-inning rule, they broke through.
Major League Baseball moved the All-Star Game to Denver, and the Colorado-native Gausman is putting together the earliest case to be a part of it.
In his second start of the season, Gausman was deadly against a lineup that is filled with threats. He navigated through seven innings and took a sixth-inning at-bat — Gabe Kapler opting to leave him in — and was efficient, with 96 pitches. It was his longest outing with the Giants and among his best.
He had all his weapons going and just tried to deploy them smartly. His fastball averaged 95 mph, but when there were two on in the sixth, he reached back for 97.5-mph heat to blaze past Luis Campusano for the last out of the inning. (He also got an assist from Rob Drake, the umpire who infamously hurt the Giants in last year’s finale — the fastball appeared a touch inside, but he got the call.)
Whenever he needed a strikeout, he turned to his disappearing splitter. The Padres swung at 15 of them and missed nine times. Facing Jorge Mateo in the seventh with the finish line in sight, he darted a gorgeous split that Mateo swung through for his final pitch of the afternoon.
In 13 2/3 innings, Gausman has allowed two runs to start his campaign, which is the sort of stuff you expect from an ace. And Kevin Gausman is indeed their ace.