Kevin Gausman knows the drill by now. The Giants are his fourth big league team in the last three seasons, a run that started with a deadline day trade from the Orioles to the Braves in 2018 that Gausman admits shocked and disappointed him at first.
When the MLB trade deadline came around a month later this time, Gausman knew the Giants had an opportunity to deal him and add to their farm system. But he also knew he really wanted to stay. Gausman politely put some public pressure on management after his final August start, saying that he hoped to be a Giant in September and really liked this group.
President of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi and general manager Scott Harris wanted Gausman to be part of it, too, knowing that they couldn't realistically compete down the stretch if they dealt perhaps their most consistent starter. It was a quiet deadline, but after Monday's win, the right-hander admitted it wasn't stress-free in the Gausman household.
"I kinda had packed up my stuff just in case, just to kinda make it easier if I was to get traded," Gausman said. "So that was the unfortunate thing. I had to kinda unpack my stuff, but that's okay. I was definitely happy to be back here. I just really love the guys and coming to the ballpark. In a season where coming to the ballpark is a headache certain days, these guys have made it as normal as this can be."
Gausman has hit on that point repeatedly, saying the Giants' protocols are a reason to want to be here during a season played during a pandemic. The Giants haven't had a positive test since July 6, and players rave about the work staffers are doing behind the scenes.
There's more to it, though. Gausman has been to the postseason twice but has never gotten the opportunity to start a game in October. He has been as public as any Giant about how tough this team can be, and if the playoffs began today, Gausman would be starting Game 1 or 2 of a postseason series. On Monday, after he watched the lineup get him off the hook for what would have been a really tough loss, Gausman explained what has gone so right:
Gausman has been a big part of the solution, too. With six strong innings Monday, he lowered his ERA to 4.05, but he's pitched much better than that number. His FIP is 3.49 and he is averaging 12 strikeouts per nine innings, the highest rate of his career and sixth-highest in the National League behind only Jacob deGrom, Trevor Bauer, Luis Castillo, Max Scherzer and Aaron Nola.
The Giants were happy to have Gausman for a September push, and the feeling was mutual.
"More than anything I just feel confident in our team," Gausman said. "Knowing that I was coming back it was kind of a 'Alright, here we go, this is the team we've got, and now we can really hone in on winning games.'"