The Giants would happily shrug off obscene strikeout figures if the big innings they cash in arrive more frequently.
They got one of those and received another excellent start from Kevin Gausman, the ace who served as their stopper, salvaging one out of three in San Diego in escaping with a 7-1 win at Petco Park on Sunday afternoon. They scored seven on just five hits, choosing the damaging ones carefully.
San Francisco (17-11) heads to Colorado for a three-game set in first place in the NL West, holding off a Dodgers club that has lost one game more. They want to prove they can play with anyone, and they have hung with the Padres, even if they were on the wrong side of good games Friday and Saturday.
The rotation continues to excel and has not shown signs of slipping. The offense has been too quiet on the whole but has shown its signs of waking up. With 10 more strikeouts against Joe Musgrove and the Padres’ bullpen Sunday, the Giants struck out 38 times in three games. But the first two did not come with much power.
That changed in the third inning, which the Giants opened trailing by a run from a Fernando Tatis Jr. homer. The Giants’ offense has had little luck thus far, but they were helped by a Curt Casali walk and Gausman winding up at first on a bunt, in which Musgrove originally wanted to try for second base. Tommy La Stella, who had a productive and painful day, tucked in a bloop single down the left-field line for the Giants’ first hit and first run of the game. A batter later, Mike Tauchman launched his first homer with the Giants, a three-run shot, and the Giants would never relinquish the lead.
Tauchman went deep on his 14th plate appearance with the Giants; he had not hit a home run in 127 plate appearances between this year and last with the Yankees. It was his first dinger since Sept. 8, 2019.
— SFGiants (@SFGiants) May 2, 2021
The Giants added two more runs in the fifth, when La Stella tripled into the left-center gap, plating Gausman (who helped his own cause), and Wilmer Flores’ sharp ground out drove in La Stella. But he hobbled home and appeared to have injured his leg. The Giants did not immediately provide an update on his status; Flores moved from third to second and Evan Longoria entered the game.
La Stella is an important player, their leadoff hitter against righties, and he had had a previous scare when he dove for a line drive that eluded him. He immediately took off his glove and grabbed at his left thumb but remained in the game for the moment after a talk with the Giants’ training staff.
It’s an issue especially because the infield is so banged up. Donovan Solano will be out for weeks; Brandon Crawford did not play again while dealing with a contused heel. Their depth is getting tested.
It does not appear to matter how dangerous the lineup that Gausman faces. He is passing every test.
The second-year Giant allowed one run — the first-inning Tatis shot — in six innings while giving up six hits and walking one. His fastball, which maxed out at 96.9 mph, was even better than his splitter, and he mixed in an occasional slider that he did not have in his last start.
What he seems to always have is another level when he needs an out. With two on in the third, he induced a ground ball from Manny Machado; with two on in the fourth, he turned to his splitter to strike out Victor Caratini; with two on in the sixth, his splitter got Jurickson Profar to ground out. Opposing hitters are 1-for-19 with eight strikeouts with runners in scoring position against Gausman this year.
He got help behind him — Mauricio Dubon played a very nice game in relief of Crawford, and Alex Dickerson contributed a diving catch — and from the Giants’ bullpen, as Caleb Baragar, Tyler Rogers and Camilo Doval did not allow a run.
The Giants are 3-3 against the Padres this year, and hanging with the NL’s best while beating up on its dregs is a good recipe to be playing meaningful baseball in late September.