Blue Jays’ All-Star Kevin Gausman returns home to face the beast of Coors Field
Rockies left-hander Ty Blach remembers well an at-bat he took against Kevin Gausman way back in the day.
Blach was a senior at Regis Jesuit High School. Gausman was a junior at Grandview.
“I was hitting against Kevin and I remember thinking, ‘I’ve never faced a fastball like that before,’ ” Blach said Sunday before the Rockies hosted the Blue Jays at rainy Coors Field. “He must have been throwing a 95 mph fastball. I hit a foul ball home run off him, somehow. I turned on one, I don’t know how. I don’t even think I saw the pitch. I just remember him being electric.”
Gausman, 32, started for Toronto in its 7-5 win over Colorado. The two-time All-Star was not particularly sharp, giving up three runs on six hits over four innings. He walked three and struck out five. His day ended early when a thunderstorm swept through LoDo and delayed the game for 59 minutes.
“I’ve pitched here many times before but my splitter was definitely more sporadic than it has been in the past,” he said. “That’s kind of the reality of pitching here. So hats off to those guys over there who do this 81 games a year.”
Gausman faced the Rockies for the seventh time in his career and fifth time at Coors Field. The Centennial native has pitched well at Coors, positing a 3.95 ERA. Entering Sunday, his .172 opponent’s average in LoDo was the lowest in the park’s history for pitchers with a least four starts.
When asked if he looked forward to pitching at Coors, Gausman chuckled and said, “I definitely look forward to seeing my family, seeing my nephews, and hanging out with them.
“It was awesome to have a day off here and I got to sleep at my parents’ house. I also realized that they don’t have air conditioning, so that’s a new development that I don’t remember growing up. But it’s always cool coming home.”
Gausman is having a terrific season with Toronto, posting a 10-8 record with a 3.39 ERA over 27 starts. In his last outing, he became the third pitcher in Blue Jays history with back-to-back 200-strikeout seasons. In doing so, he joined pitching royalty. The other two? Roger Clemens (1997-1998) and Hall of Famer Roy Halladay (2008-2009), who graduated from Arvada West High School. Gausman’s 207 strikeouts are the most in the American League this season.
Blach began playing against Gausman when they were both 10-year-old Little Leaguers.
“Everybody knew he was going to be good, even at that age,” Blach said.
But Gausman, who played college baseball at Louisiana State, was not an instant star in the majors. He was selected No. 4 overall in the 2012 draft by the Orioles, but he’s played for five different teams in his 11-year big-league career. He’s been traded, placed on waivers and non-tendered. Now he’s a formidable force.
The turning point came with the Giants in 2020-21. Gausman worked hard to refine his fastball command, but it was his increased use of his devastating splitter that made him an All-Star and earned him a five-year, $110 million deal with Toronto prior to the 2022 season.
Coming back home this weekend and pitching in front of about 40 friends and family Sunday was a thrill. Trying to get his splitter to behave at altitude? Not so much.
“It’s tough,” he said. “It helps growing up here and I don’t get the headaches that some guys did the first day and a half. But today, I could definitely tell that I wasn’t pitching at sea level.”
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