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Giants muscle past D-Backs as Gausman notches win No. 11

Buster Posey and LaMonte Wade Jr. cranked key home runs and ace Kevin Gausman steered carefully through five innings of one-run baseball to propel the Giants to a two-game sweep of the Diamondbacks with a 7-2 win Wednesday night at Oracle Park.

San Francisco (73-41) continues to roll with the best record in baseball and remains four games ahead in the National League West. Posey, Wade, and Gausman (W, 11-5, 2.29 ERA) each notched multi-hit evenings and Brandon Crawford delivered an early RBI double and a late-inning blast to take down an Arizona (35-80) club that has now dropped 14 of 16 games to the Giants.

This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the Giants clubhouse at Oracle Park.

In recent starts Gausman has sought to rediscover his stride after an All-Star first half. Gausman’s previous four starts have been underwhelming, with opponents scoring 13 earned runs in 17-2/3 innings.

Most of the damage in his recent starts has come in the first inning, and Gausman quickly flipped the page on that narrative by striking out the side in the opening frame. Finding his groove, though, wasn’t the easiest task against an Arizona offense that suddenly looked rejuvenated in this short two-game set.

The right-hander worked hard to navigate through traffic all night. The Diamondbacks had runners in scoring position all night long against Gausman, from walks, hits and errors. In his recent struggles, finding command of his fastball was key for a strong outing, especially if it meant his splitter would look that much better. Wednesday night Gausman showed flashes of stability, though he is clearly still searching for the efficiency that marked his first-half success.

Gausman finished his outing with five innings pitched, four hits allowed, one earned run, four walks, and five strikeouts.

On Gausman’s outing, Giants manager Gabe Kapler noted:

In the first inning obviously he came out and was lightning. The ball was carrying, the splitter has that downward angle that we’re looking for and he was able to command it more in the middle of the plate, down below. As the game went on, I don’t think he had the same level of control and I also think we had the capability to make some plays behind him.”

San Francisco’s rotation remains in flux as the Giants placed veteran Johnny Cueto on the 10-day injured list before the game with a right flexor strain. Kapler said the organization hopes Cueto only misses just one start. Thairo Estrada was recalled from Triple-A Sacramento to take Cueto’s spot on the roster.

The Giants went into attack mode early against starter Merrill Kelly (L, 7-9, 4.30 ERA) in the first, fighting off several good pitches and laying off ones just out of the strike zone. Kris Bryant reached on an error, Posey singled, then Crawford ripped a run-scoring double to right, knocking in a run to put San Francisco on the board first at 1-0.

Kelly tossed eight innings of three-hit baseball in his last start against the Giants last Thursday in Arizona. However, the Giants came back from a 4-0 deficit and ended up winning in later innings after Kelly departed.

Crawford’s success against Arizona this year isn’t unusual. The shortstop has now reached base safely in all 13 games against them in 2021. He’s also performed under pressure extraordinarily well as of late, and is 26-for-his-last-60 with runners in scoring position.

Crawford’s second hit was an opposite-field, solo homer (19) in the seventh to add extra insurance onto a comfortable Giants lead.

In the second, Gausman issued a leadoff walk that eventually came around to score to tie the game 1-1 on David Peralta‘s RBI groundout. Daulton Varsho hit a high pop-up down the left field line, and Darin Ruf, who hasn’t started a game in left field since May 7, sprinted over to make a run-saving, sliding grab.

In a manner he rarely shows, Gausman helped himself in the second when he gave San Francisco the lead with a slow roller past the drawn-in middle-infielders for an RBI single. In 91 previous careerr at-bats, Gausman had managed to knock in just one run, and it occurred earlier this season. He singled again in the fourth.

As he did many times in his perennial vintage seasons, Posey pulled in his hands in and drove a fastball over the 24-foot-high arcade in right field to make it 3-1 in the third. The solo homer was Posey’s 15th of the season and it was the second time this season that he’s homered in two straight games.

Posey’s power resurgence has been a welcoming sight for the 34-year-old catcher. The last time he hit at least 15 long balls was in 2015, when he creamed 19. Though it was never his calling card, Posey’s power has always amplified his overall offensive skill set.

If qualified, Posey’s OPS would land him near the top of the leaderboard with among the top hitters in baseball.

On Posey’s strong 2021 season, Kapler said:

“I also think the work that he’s done in the cage to prepare for the pitchers that we face on a nightly basis, but also the mechanics of his swing are sound. So it’s the mechanics, it’s the preparation, it’s the health and explosiveness that’s leading to the success.”

Gausman ran into more problems in the fourth, pitching around two errors and a Varsho run-scoring single to put Arizona within one at 3-2. More trouble brewed in the fifth when he allowed two straight singles to begin the frame, but pitched around them and left no damage behind on the scoreboard. Lefty José Álvarez emerged from the bullpen to thrive in a scoreless sixth inning.

Wade continued his successful streak with a two-run homer in the fourth to extend San Francisco’s lead to 5-2. His 14th homer of the year traveled to deep right center field, off the glove of a leaping Ketel Marte and over the wall. When Marte realized he hadn’t made the unbelievable SportsCenter grab, he expressed clear distraught.

In between innings, the Oracle Park scoreboard operator played the clip of Marte swinging his glove in the air on a loop to the famous song “Bye Bye Baby.” Before the game, Kapler brought up Wade’s mental toughness and ability to adjust mid-game as a skill that has impressed the skipper.

In the eighth, pinch-hitter Alex Dickerson wasted no time, jumped on the first pitch, and destroyed a solo homer (13) into McCovey Cove for his third pinch-hit homer of 2021 to make the score 7-2.

Six different players have sent home runs into the Cove this season, a single-season record. It was also the 90th splash hit in the history of Oracle Park.

Crawford spoke after the game about the home run parade:

“I mean, we definitely have taken a lot of good swings out here. I think tonight was a matter of swinging at good pitches and putting good swings on the ball –– and hitting the ball hard. I mean, that’s how you hit a homer I guess at any ballpark, but then here you definitely have to hit it hard at the right angle. And we did a good job of doing that today.”

San Francisco’s bullpen was nails in the later innings. Álvarez, Dominic Leone, Tony Watson, and Jarlin García combined for three scoreless innings in relief.

Series Wrap

Tuesday – Diamondbacks 7, Giants 8: San Francisco showed off some of their resilient characteristics on Monday as they defeated Arizona in extra-innings after blowing two leads –– in the sixth and ninth, The offense put up four runs on the board in the first inning thanks to run-scoring doubles from Bryant and Mike Yastrzemski, and an RBI single off the bat of Dickerson. Posey made it 5-0 with a blast to straight away center in the fifth, but that lead didn’t last long. Starter Alex Wood allowed three straight doubles, a triple, and a two-run homer to allow Arizona to tie it up. When the D-Backs tied it again in the ninth, Bryant delivered a walk-off infield single to secure the win in the home-half.

Up Next

The Giants begin a four-game series with the Colorado Rockies Thursday at Oracle Park with right-hander German Marquez (10-8, 3.42 ERA) toeing the mound against Logan Webb (5-3, 3.19 ERA), who is looking to continue his recent trail of success. In his last five starts, Webb has tossed 27 innings and recorded a 2.33 ERA.

Notes

The Giants have claimed 25-year-old outfielder Luis Gonzalez off waivers from the Chicago White Sox. Gonzalez was ranked by Baseball America as Chicago’s 19th best prospect. He’s expected to be placed on the 60-day injured list for the remainder of the season so he wouldn’t take up a 40-man roster spot. … Scott Kazmir is an option to make a spot-start for the Giants as they look to fill innings after Cueto’s injury, according to Kapler. … Evan Longoria is dealing with “heaviness” in his legs after his rehab assignment in Sacramento, but he’s expected to be activated this weekend.

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