© Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
After Thursday’s would-be series opener was washed away by some typically East Coast inclement weather, the Giants remained on course Friday night, gritting through a 1-0 win over the Washington Nationals.
It was scheduled to be a pitcher’s duel, and remained one, but with a crucial absence on the Nationals’ side. Max Scherzer (2.22 ERA), the staff’s ace, and the only Nationals starter with a sub-4.19 ERA, was pulled after just 12 pitches, and with a 3-2 count to Brandon Belt.
So the Nationals had to do it by committee, turning to the 34-year-old Pablo Espino, who frustrated most of the Giants’ bats as they attempted to readjust to a much slower-paced pitcher who often featured a slurve (or borderline eephus curve, whatever you want to call it). Buster Posey got the lone punch in, sneaking a home run into the Giants’ bullpen and just out of the reach of Kyle Schwarber.
The Nationals’ bullpen did their job, using six total pitchers, including Scherzer, Espino, Kyle McGowin, Wander Suero, Ryne Harper and Sam Clay, all of whom combined for nine strikeouts and just four hits allowed.
But it was that lone home run from Posey which prove to be all San Francisco needed. Their pitching result was almost identical, but it didn’t take a committee effort.
Anthony DeSclafani, aside from a scary seventh inning, was scintillating. He got a couple double plays at opportune times and hit his spots consistently with an especially effective slider. And of course, he was aided by a few web gems; one early on from Lamonte Wade, and a much more high-profile play from Mike Tauchman.
Tauchman has apparently decided it’s his M.O. to rob home runs at only the most vital points in the game. You’ll remember this instant classic on the Dodgers version of Albert Pujols, which saved the Giants from defeat and broke their duck against Los Angeles on May 28.
MIKE TAUCHMAN ROBS THE WALK-OFF 🤯
— KNBR (@KNBR) May 29, 2021
He decided to do the same on Friday night, as an awestruck, but good-humored Juan Soto looked on in disbelief.
Another day, another home run robbed by Mike Tauchman 🤯 pic.twitter.com/URdiQhuMse
— KNBR (@KNBR) June 12, 2021
It was another sure home run, and another catch that, if not a game-winner, was at least a game saver. And it kept the DeSclafani gem intact, allowing the Giants to keep him in the game for the full duration, and increasingly rare complete game shutout.
DeSclafani, in a rapid, 2.5-hour game — which featured a roughly 5-10 minute intermission for Scherzer’s early injury — was stellar and ruthlessly efficient. He took his chance to close out the complete game shutout with eight strikeouts, two hits and one walk allowed, all while pounding the strike zone to the tune of 71 strikes on 103 pitches.
It wasn’t just Tauchman who repeated greatness from earlier this season; it was DeSclafani, too. It’s his second complete game shutout of the season in an era when that just does not happen. Johnny Cueto was the last Giants pitcher to accomplish that feat.
Anthony DeSclafani is the first Giants pitcher with multiple shutouts in a season since Johnny Cueto had 2 in 2016
Last Giants pitcher with MORE THAN 2 shutouts in a season? Jason Schmidt, with 3 in 2004
— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) June 12, 2021
DeSclafani’s shutouts were very similar in their efficiency. The only, uh, minor difference was that he got 12 runs in his first one.
April 26 (vs. Rockies): 100 pitches, 65 strikes, 9 Ks, 3 H, 1 BB
June 11 (at Nationals): 103 pitches, 71 strikes, 8 Ks, 2 H, 1 BB
Heading into a weekend with three games as a result of the rain out, the Giants’ bullpen was spared, while the Nationals had to dive deep and lean hard on their relievers for high-pressure innings. That could prove to be a crucial separator, as the Giants, now 39-23, are in an advantageous spot to win a four-game series in D.C.