Kevin Gausman pitched for the Giants on Thursday, so when he arrived at Oracle Park on Friday, he wasn't expecting to participate in the game in any way.
Instead, the Giants' ace wound up being the hero in a wild and stressful 6-5 win over the Atlanta Braves in 11 innings.
With the Giants out of position players, manager Gabe Kapler decided to use Gausman to pinch-hit for reliever Camilo Doval with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 11th. The starting pitcher entered the game with nine hits in 49 at-bats (.184 AVG) and three RBI this season.
"That's exactly the way we set it up for Gausman," Kapler told reporters on a video conference call after the game. "We knew he was going to have that kind of at-bat. He works so hard for those moments and he was able to come through. He actually does take his batting practice pretty seriously. Hell of an at-bat. Pitcher, position player, doesn't matter. Just a great at-bat. He had a game plan was looking to get a pitch in the air. Craw got a great jump and made a great slide, and it all worked out well."
On a 3-2 pitch from Braves reliever Jacob Webb, Gausman lifted a fly ball to right field. Joc Pederson caught it for the second out and fired home, but his throw was up the third base line, allowing Brandon Crawford to slide in to score the winning run.
"Oh man, that was the coolest thing I've ever done in my entire career," Gausman told reporters. "When it was 3-2 and everybody stood up, it probably was one of the coolest moments of my life. I was just trying to cheat to a fastball, thought he was going to throw me a fastball, somehow made contact with it. Yeah, we won. It was crazy."
For the first time in his career, Gausman was mobbed by his teammates after driving in the winning run.
"That was awesome," Gausman said. "Like I said, top two moment of my life. Birth of my two children and then that. It's up there. It was super cool. I'm never on the field like that with people mobbing me, so it was super cool."
Gausman became just the third Giants pitcher since 1974 with a walk-off RBI, joining Don Robinson 1990 and Madison Bumgarner in 2018.
Glendon Rusch in 2003 was the last pitcher with a walk-off RBI the day after starting a game.
The ball wasn't hit deep by Gausman and a better throw from Pederson might have gotten Crawford at the plate. Off the bat, Gausman wasn't sure if it would be deep enough to get Crawford home. Two batters earlier, Steven Duggar had flown out to left center, and Crawford wasn't able to tag up.
"Well, that's the first time I've pulled a ball in the big leagues, so I didn't really know how to gauge it," Gausman said. "So I really had no idea to be honest. I felt like I hit it pretty good, but I really didn't know to be honest. I was shocked when I turned around and saw that Craw was running."
The Giants didn't have many options left, but Kapler was confident that Gausman would make the most of his chance at the plate.
"Frankly, the walk is not the likeliest outcome there, and that's why you know, when you get to a 3-2 count, you're probably gonna get a fastball to hit and I think Gaus is aware enough to understand that," Kapler said. "So yeah, we had him going up there to swing the bat. And it's not the easiest decision, which pitcher to use in that spot because you kind of get a sinking feeling in your stomach any way you look at it when you don't have a position player to use. But Gaus has quality, competitive at-bats. Not all that much thump, but he has a knack for getting the barrel on the ball.
Logan Webb got the start for the Giants and after giving up just two earned runs and striking out nine in seven innings, he was in line for the win until Tyler Rogers gave up a three-run homer in the ninth to blow the save.
By the 11th inning, Webb was back in the Giants' clubhouse watching the game on a TV when Gausman was sent up to hit.
While Webb isn't as good of a hitter as Gausman, he still has been productive in the batter's box this season. The 24-year-old has four hits in 41 at-bats (.098 AVG), but he has two doubles, a triple and five RBI.
If Webb hadn't started the game, he might have been the one batting instead of Gausman.
"Honestly at first, I was a little pissed," Webb said, jokingly. "I'm sitting in the clubhouse and I'm like 'This is the dream. Like, this is what I've been waiting for all year.' And of course, I pitched this day and Gaus gets it. Nah, oh my god, I was screaming in there and when Gaus came in, it was so awesome. I'm still a little fired up about it. That was fun. That was real fun. That was awesome."
Gausman hasn't been as dominant in the second half as he was before the All-Star break, but on Friday, in a game he didn't start, the 30-year-old found a way to help the Giants win their 96th game of the season. Friday's win also increased the Giants' NL West lead to two games over the Los Angeles Dodgers.