SAN FRANCISCO — Kevin Gausman heard the boos when he stepped into the batter’s box, realizing right away the fans had no idea the Giants were down to their last options with no position players left.
So the pinch-hitting pitcher stood in and delivered, lofting a full-count, bases-loaded sacrifice fly in the 11th inning that sent San Francisco past the Atlanta Braves 6-5 on Friday night to increase their NL West lead.
“Oh man, that was the coolest thing I’ve ever done in my entire career,” Gausman said. “When it was 3-2 and everybody stood up, it was probably one of the coolest moments of my life. … Just crazy.”
The Giants, saved when Donovan Solano came off the COVID-19 injured list and connected for a tying, pinch-hit home run with two outs in the ninth, moved two games ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the division race.
Atlanta had its NL East lead trimmed to two games over Philadelphia.
The Giants had only pitchers left on the bench when Gausman, with a .184 average this season, hit for reliever Camilo Doval, who had never batted in his professional career.
“More than anything I was trying to not look ridiculous, just take good swings, swing at strikes,” a giddy Gausman recounted. “Obviously I never would have thought I would have got in that situation coming to the ballpark today.”
Hardly ridiculous. Not even close.
Braves manager Brian Snitker got caught off guard by it.
“I honestly thought he’d probably take that 3-2 pitch so he didn’t expand the strike zone and maybe swing at one over his head or something,” Snitker said.
Instead, Gausman hit a flyball to shallow right field and Brandon Crawford beat the throw home with a head-first slide. Gausman’s teammates chest bumped him and cheered near first base a day after the right-hander took his first defeat since July 30.
The pitcher noted “that’s the first time I’ve pulled a ball in the big leagues, so I didn’t really know how to gauge it” or know whether he had done his job. Soon, the celebration gave him his answer.
“I was shocked when I turned around and Craw was running,” he said. “… That was pretty cool. I think the fans enjoyed it, seeing a pitcher hit it in the 11th inning. … I got some boos when they announced my name, I think they thought we had more people on the bench but we didn’t, we didn’t have anybody else.”
Crawford began the final inning at second base and advanced on a wild pickoff throw by Jacob Webb (4-3), who then intentionally walked Evan Longoria. With one out, Solano was walked to load the bases.
“He actually does take his batting practice seriously. That was just a hell of an at-bat – pitcher, position player, it was a great at-bat,” manager Gabe Kapler said of Gausman. “Had a game plan and was looking to get a pitch in the air. Craw got a great jump and made a great slide.”
Tyler Matzek had retired Crawford on a grounder with two outs in the 10th and the bases loaded.
Doval (3-1) pitched a perfect 11th for the win.
Down 4-2, the Braves rallied in the ninth when Travis d’Arnaud hit a go-ahead, three-run homer. Austin Riley and Adam Duvall hit consecutive singles to start the inning against Tyler Rogers and d’Arnaud connected one out later.
Solano homered off former…
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