Giants hit four home runs as Gausman picks up bullpen in 10-5 win against Rockies
DENVER — When pressed last week about the challenges presented by a scheduling quirk that required his club to play a Sunday evening game in San Francisco and a Monday day game in Denver, Giants manager Gabe Kapler expressed his frustration.
Kapler detailed the difficulties of late-night travel followed by an early game, noted the stress already created by playing 16 consecutive off days and then finished his answer with a sobering reminder: “Nobody cares.”
Kapler and the Giants know that in the major leagues, no one wants to hear excuses. The team’s performance over the last two days ensured no Giants player would need to use one as the club followed a 6-4 series-clinching win over the Dodgers with a 10-5 victory over the Colorado Rockies.
“Obviously a late flight last night, get in at 1:30 in the morning, the whole crew has a very quick turnaround and there’s some tired eyes this morning,” Kapler said. “Obviously these guys got ramped up well, they got prepared and ready to hit.”
The Giants remained one game ahead of the Dodgers in the National League West after scoring six runs off Los Angeles starter Walker Buehler on Sunday and then tagging Rockies lefty Kyle Freeland for six more in Monday’s matinee affair. By improving to 88-50, the Giants have their most wins since Bruce Bochy’s 2014 team finished 88-74 and will soon look to catch the 2012 club that was the last San Francisco team to win the division as it posted a 94-68 record.
“To be honest, I was expecting everyone to be a little sluggish,” starter Kevin Gausman said. “We expended a lot of energy that last series just mentally and being locked in every single pitch and to come out, from the get-go, they were locked in. Quality ABs and really making Freeland work.”
Darin Ruf and Buster Posey each homered in the first inning, second baseman Thairo Estrada had his first career multi-home run game and the Giants scored in double digits for the first time since winning 11-8 over the Diamondbacks at Chase Field on August 2.
The offensive outburst was arguably the second most important development of the day for the Giants as Gausman saved an exhausted bullpen with seven innings of three-run ball. The quality start was just the third since the All-Star break for the right-hander, but it was his second in his last three outings as Gausman has taken an important step forward over the last two weeks.
“The swings they were taking early in the game, I knew if I could locate up in the zone and not miss my spot, I felt like I was going to have success,” Gausman said. “Buster definitely noticed that too and called a lot of fastballs up and we executed them.”
The Centennial, Colo., native relied heavily on his fastball Monday as 70 of his 98 pitches were four-seamers, but the offering was effective for much of the day as he generated a season-high 14 swings and misses with the pitch.
“This is a very difficult environment to pitch, that will come as a surprise to nobody, but when you’re on the mound at Coors Field, you have to attack the strike zone and understand there’s going to be some hard contact and there was some of that and I thought he did an excellent job elevating his fastball,” Kapler said.
After Ruf and Posey hit first-inning homers to give the Giants a 2-0 lead, Estrada stretched his team’s advantage with a solo shot in the fourth inning and a two-run blast off Freeland in the fifth. Monday’s victory marked the 13th time this season the Giants have hit four home runs in the same game, which set a new San Francisco-era record and tied the franchise record set by the 1954 New York Giants, who went on to win the World Series.
“I just like to compete, I like to take good swings to make good contact and just wish the ball goes out,” said Estrada, who added that his approach at the plate hasn’t changed in the hitter-friendly environment in Colorado.
The bottom half of the Giants’ lineup followed Estrada’s lead as No. 7 hitter Mauricio Dubón followed him and went 3 for 3 with a walk and a two-run single. No. 8 hitter Steven Duggar recorded a pair of singles while Gausman also helped his own cause from the No. 9 spot by pulling a bunt back and chopping a RBI single down the third base line in the fourth inning.
The runs proved critical for a Giants team that had its bullpen cover the final 23 innings of the Dodgers series and was looking to rest at least seven relievers Monday including many of their most reliable arms such as Zack Littell, José Álvarez, Tony Watson, Tyler Rogers and Jake McGee.