Giants ace Kevin Gausman allowed a baserunner in each of his five shutout innings Tuesday night, and each time he responded with at least one strikeout. Four of those innings ended with a strikeout of an Arizona Diamondbacks hitter, allowing Gausman to continue his remarkable start to the season.
It's rare to find a pitcher who can summon a strikeout every time he needs one, but Gausman has just about done that through 10 starts. Opposing hitters have come up to the plate against him 40 times with at least one runner in scoring position. They have one hit and 21 strikeouts.
That ability to focus in tight spots and keep the lineup from even putting a ball in play reminds broadcaster Duane Kuiper of a couple of other right-handers he has watched. One is Jason Schmidt, a player Gausman is often compared to because of his repertoire and late-career breakout, and the other is Tim Lincecum.
"It's either Timmy or then you go back a little further to Jason Schmidt, who really had the uncanny ability to get strikeouts when he needed to," Kuiper said on Thursday's "Giants Talk Podcast." "Even when a guy leads off an inning with a double, it becomes a strikeout situation and Gausman has been great. Timmy was awesome when that happened, and as I mentioned, Jason Schmidt. All three of those guys have incredible stuff and you need incredible stuff to be able to do that on a consistent basis."
Gausman's 1.53 ERA is bringing back memories of the best pitching seasons in recent Giants history, and both Lincecum and Schmidt have multiple offerings on that list. In a more favorable environment for hitters, Schmidt led the NL with a 2.34 ERA in 2003. Like Gausman, he was 30 years old at the time. In at-bats with a runner in scoring position that season, Schmidt recorded a strikeout about one-third of the time.
Lincecum led the Majors in strikeouts-per-nine in each of his two Cy Young Award seasons and he was able to use his otherworldly stuff to get out of plenty of jams. In 2008, he held hitters to a .167 average with a runner in scoring position and recorded a strikeout 35 percent of the time. A year later the batting average jumped to .226, but he still struck out 34 percent of the hitters he faced with a runner in scoring position.
Gausman is leading the Giants in an odd year when offensive numbers are down across the board, but few have been better this season, and with an upper 90s fastball and a go-to splitter, he's putting up numbers reminiscent of past right-handed Giants aces. Kuiper pointed out that he's getting some help from one of Lincecum's former teammates, too.
"When the going gets tough for Gausman, you can really see how he and Buster work it out. They just work it out," he said. "Gausman trusts Buster and Buster has put a lot of thought into whatever pitch he's going to call, and then (Gausman) just executes."