Gabe Kapler manages Giants’ big September win like October playoff game

Gabe Kapler manages Giants' big September win like October playoff game

Kapler manages Giants’ big September win like playoff game originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

SAN FRANCISCO — Teams are limited to just two September call-ups now, but still, a dugout can feel cramped this time of year. The Giants have 28 players, plus the biggest coaching staff in baseball, injured players, and support staff. But the crowd cleared out in a hurry Saturday afternoon.

The Giants used four right-handed pinch-hitters in the bottom of the sixth. That led to five defensive changes in the top of the seventh, plus a new reliever. At that point, the last man standing in the dugout was Austin Slater, and he certainly noticed.

“Ohh yeah,” he said, smiling. “I was very, very aware of it.”

Slater looked around the cage and saw only coaches remaining. But he would be needed, too. Slater was the 23rd Giant to enter the game and like nearly all of them, he contributed to a 5-4 win over the Phillies.

Slater made a diving catch that got an out for Camilo Doval and kept him from having to face Bryce Harper in the ninth. Doval had a clean inning, finishing off his second four-out save as the seventh pitcher used by Gabe Kapler.
Barring a miracle, Kapler’s third season in San Francisco will not include playoff games. But he managed Saturday’s game like it was an October matchup, likely for a couple of reasons.

Kapler would never admit it, but he certainly wouldn’t mind putting a dent in the Phillies’ playoff chances three years after they fired him. But more importantly, he continues to preach that the Giants — 63-68 after these two wins — need to finish strong. That includes the staff. Kapler said he has a group of coaches “who take September very seriously.”

“Our staff is aware of how important it is for every fan in this ballpark today — and they had quite a bit of energy as you saw and felt, it was a middle of the summer, right in the thick of it vibe to it , the entire stage was full — to put the best possible product on the field (while) balancing the now and the future,” Kapler said. “So, it’s guys like David Villar and Bryce Johnson, giving them some looks and seeing what we have in them but also giving them some time to develop while trying to win every baseball game.”

In front of 40,000, Kapler made his biggest move in the sixth. The four pinch-hitters led to three guys on base, and while the Giants scored just one run, that held up. It was a good day for the bullpen, with several relievers picking up others. Eight different players had hits.

By the end of the afternoon, only Dom Leone and Tyler Rogers remained in the bullpen. Kapler had used his entire bench, including both catchers and two players — Slater and Longoria — who are nursing injuries. The only players who didn’t get into Saturday’s game were the two relievers and three starting pitchers.

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This, in a big way, is how the Giants were built. Line changes were a big part of the 2021 success, but this year’s group has been unable to put it all together. For a couple of days here against the Phillies though, the Giants have, and even though they’re still far back of the playoff teams, they’re feeling a lot better than they were 48 hours ago.

“It was a complete team win, top to bottom,” starter Jakob Junis said. “Those ones feel extra good.”

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