With the MLB season suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak, there are no baseball games and limited baseball news. So I’m creating a hypothetical season — complete with news and recaps — until baseball resumes. All news and recaps will have the hypothetical tag, so you can at least know when you’re suspending reality. And you can click “hypothetical season” above the headline to see everything that has happened in this “season.”
Kevin Gausman hasn’t had the smoothest start to his San Francisco Giants tenure — a tenure that pretty overtly exists because Farhan Zaidi and Scott Harris think Gausman might be able to pitch well enough to garner a decent return at the deadline.
So it was a little unfair that in one of Gausman’s better starts since joining the Giants, he got lined up across Max Scherzer.
Perhaps you’ve heard of Scherzer. He’s a little bit of an under-the-radar pitcher, but if you check out his deep cuts you’ll find some positive numbers. Like the top-five finish in Cy Young voting in each of the last seven years, including wins in 2013, 2016, and 2017. Or the three consecutive years leading the league in strikeouts, including topping out with 300 (300!!!) in 2018. Or the 37 strikeouts in 30 postseason innings last year, while leading the Washington Nationals to a championship.
Yeah, that guy.
The Giants stacked the lineup with all of their left-handed hitters, which included Buster Posey getting a day off, and Billy Hamilton starting in center, flanked by Mike Yastrzemski and Alex Dickerson. You could make the point that any of the right-handers who could have been in the lineup instead of Hamilton — Hunter Pence, Austin Slater, Darin Ruf, or Wilmer Flores — would have been a better hitter against Scherzer, but I kind of liked the decision to go with Hamilton.
Against a pitcher like Scherzer, runs are at such a premium that I’m on board with the concept of sticking a worse hitter in the lineup who can do a bunch of damage with his legs. Scherzer is more elite at stopping bats than legs. That’s a good way to steal — pun only partially intended — a run, and even one run is a win against Scherzer. Though it usually is still a loss, I guess.
Of course, you still have to get on base, by hit, walk, error, or plunking, and Hamilton was unable to do that. But the process was defensible. Hamilton’s defense was also defensible, and that time the pun was entirely intended (and really bad. Sorry.).
But Scherzer’s gonna Scherzer, and Max mowed down the Giants with barely a blemish. The Giants finally got him out of the game in the eighth inning, when Brandon Belt beat the shift for a ground ball double, but it didn’t yield anything. That left Scherzer’s line as such: 7.2 innings, 5 hits, 1 walk, 12 strikeouts, 0 earned runs.
Cool, cool, very cool.
Gausman was fun to watch, despite being outmatched (outmaxed?) by Scherzer. His breaking ball seemed to have more break than in any of his prior starts, and that was both enjoyable and encouraging.
But enjoyable and encouraging only count when you’re not facing Max Scherzer, and so the Giants lost 3-0. They’ll try and avoid the sweep on Sunday. They’re 11-16, which is definitely not first place in the NL West, or particularly close to it, so start looking for moral victories to put in the win column.