Pinch-hitter pitcher Gausman sac fly in 11th, SF tops Braves

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Brandon Crawford, Travis d'Arnaud

San Francisco Giants’ Brandon Crawford, foreground, slides into home to score the winning run past Atlanta Braves catcher Travis d’Arnaud during the 11th inning of a baseball game in San Francisco, on Friday, Sept. 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — 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 Giants reliever Will Smith, who blew his sixth save.

Brandon Belt hit a two-run homer, Crawford also connected and LaMonte Wade Jr. had a splash homer for the Giants.

San Francisco starter Logan Webb struck out nine and didn’t walk a batter, allowing two runs on six hits. He was in position to win his 10th consecutive decision dating to a May 5 loss at Colorado.

“This was what I’ve been waiting for all year. Of course I pitched today and Gaus gets it,” Webb said. “That was fun, that was real fun, that was awesome.”

The Braves had won six of the last seven in San Francisco, where they played for the first time since May 2019.

Atlanta’s last 10 losses have been by two or fewer runs.

CLEARING FENCES

The Giants have homered in a season-high 12 straight games dating to Sept. 5 — 26 total during that span — for their longest such streak since doing so in 13 consecutive games from June 25-July 12, 2019.

Solano’s shot marked the franchise-record 16th pinch-homer by San Francisco this season.

Belt’s homer also gave him a 10-game hitting streak.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Braves: Atlanta’s scheduled series finale with Colorado on Thursday was rained out, giving the Braves a head start traveling cross-country to the Bay Area. Snitker hoped that might benefit everybody but particularly his bullpen. “It’s not going to be a bad thing having that day off,” he said.

Giants: Reliever Jake McGee was placed on the 10-day injured list with a strained right oblique muscle. … OF Mike Yastrzemski missed a third straight start after being hit by a pitch on the right elbow Tuesday against San Diego. … RHP Johnny Cueto (strained pitching elbow) played catch out to 90 feet with the hope he will throw live batting practice Sept. 27th or 28th and he could potentially pitch before the regular season ends. … OF Alex Dickerson (right hamstring strain) still needs some minor league rehab at-bats before being activated.

ROSTER MOVE

The Giants recalled RHP Jay Jackson from Triple-A Sacramento and optioned INF Thairo Estrado to Sacramento.

UP NEXT

LHP Alex Wood (10-4, 4.08) will pitch Saturday in his first start for San Francisco since Aug. 26 as he makes his return from a bout with COVID-19. He hopes to work deep into the game, saying “we’re just going take it inning by inning and see how it goes.”

“Get back in, have a few before the playoffs and be ready to go,” Wood said. “Just happy to be back and be able to give us a chance to win.”

RHP Charlie Morton (13-5, 3.49) pitches for the Braves seeking his first win against the Giants since Aug. 20, 2015, with Pittsburgh.

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