Through the first 10 games of the 2021 season, the story for the San Francisco Giants had been strong starting pitching helping to compensate for a struggling lineup.
On Tuesday night, the roles were reversed as Kevin Gausman allowed five runs in the first two innings, yet the Giants offense managed to make up for it in a 7-6 win over the Cincinnati Reds.
“I thought we did a really nice job of spoiling tough pitches and extending at-bats, and we got some really timely and important hits from both sides,” manager Gabe Kapler said of the win.
With just two right-handed hitters in the starting lineup but six available off the bench, the Giants went to those righty bench bats when the Reds turned to their bullpen, and it was those bats that provided the decisive runs.
Pinch-hitting for lefty LaMonte Wade Jr. in the bottom of the sixth, Austin Slater was forced into a right-on-right matchup against Carson Fulmer but tripled to the gap in right-center, scoring Buster Posey to give the Giants a 6-5 lead. Cincinnati (7-4) tied the game back up in the seventh against Wandy Peralta as Jonathan India reached on an infield hit, took second on a balk, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on a blooper from Bay Area native Alex Blandino, but the Giants bench took the lead back in the bottom of the inning.
“We made a little line change mid-game,” Kapler said.
Tommy LaStella had been 3-for-3 on the night, but with the Reds turning to lefty Cionel Perez, Kapler countered by bringing in the right-handed Donovan Solano, who walked.
“That move was not about La Stella. It’s much more about Donovan Solano,” Kapler said. “He’s been one of our best hitters for the last calendar year, and when there’s a left-hander on the mound, he’s a great weapon.”
Mike Yastrzemski followed with another walk, and Solano advanced to third when Mauricio Dubon, another pinch-hitter, grounded into a force out. Wilmer Flores, who had come in as a pinch-hitter in the sixth and stayed in the game, hit a sac fly against right-hander Lucas Sims that ultimately put San Francisco (7-4) in front for good.
“That’s the crazy thing about our lineup, everybody should be playing every day,” Yastrzemski said of the platoon bats who started the night on the bench.
Tyler Rogers baffled the heart of the Reds lineup in the top of the eighth, allowing a two-out double to Eugenio Suarez but getting comical swings and misses to strike out Nicholas Castellanos, Joey Votto and Mike Moustakas. The Giants squandered a chance to add on in the eighth despite getting a pair of walks and a single against Cam Bedrosian, but the one-run lead was enough for Jake McGee, who allowed a one-out walk to India but struck out pinch-hitter Aristides Aquino and Tyler Stephenson, both looking, to end the game. It was the fifth save of the year for McGee, already giving him more than any individual member of the 2020 Giants accumulated over the 60-game season.
Though a close game was expected with both teams sending their Opening Day starters to the mound in Gausman and Luis Castillo, few would have expected the offensive onslaught that took place in the early innings. The Reds took the lead three batters in when Votto hit his second homer of the series, an opposite-field two-run shot to left, and after a Suarez walk, Moustakas clobbered an 0-1 pitch into McCovey Cove to make it 4-0.
Castillo endured a similar fate in the bottom of the first, allowing a leadoff single to La Stella and a homer to Yastrzemski. An Evan Longoria single with two outs brought up Crawford, who went the other way for his third home run of the 2021 campaign to even up the score.
“The guys just battled and put together a bunch of good ABs,” Gausman said of the quick rally. “That was huge from a momentum standpoint.”
Cincinnati went back on top with a two-out rally in the top of the second as Jesse Winker walked and Castellanos brought him in with a double to the left field corner, and the score held there until the bottom of the sixth as both starters settled in. Gausman retired the remaining 13 batters he faced on the night after the Castellanos double, and Castillo retired eight straight before letting two men reach in the fifth. He induced a 1-6-3 double play off the bat of Alex Dickerson to end his outing.
Sean Doolittle took over for Castillo in the bottom of the sixth, and though he got a flyout from Flores, who had come in to bat for Brandon Belt, Longoria homered to left-center to tie the game. A two-out single from Posey prompted Kapler to call on Slater to pinch-hit, and after David Bell countered by bringing in Fulmer, Slater tripled to give the Giants their first lead of the night.
“I saw (Fulmer) warming up, but Doolittle has a long and established record, so I was ready for both of them,” Slater said.
A night after the Giants collected just two hits for the entire game and struck out six times against Cincinnati relievers, they got the best of the Reds bullpen, with three runs on four hits and four walks over three innings.
“We’re getting closer to clicking as an offense,” Yastrzemski said. “We have the confidence to come back and produce runs in any inning.”