SAN FRANCISCO -- Camilo Doval stood on the grass behind home plate as Justin Turner scored. He flailed his right arm, the universal sign of frustration. He had surrendered the go-ahead run in an eventual 2-1 loss to the Dodgers in Game 5 of the National League Division Series on Thursday at Oracle Park.
But for the 24-year-old Doval, this series, this season, had the feeling of a beginning, not an end.
“I’m going to have a chance to talk with Camilo here, probably tonight, and share with him what a tremendous, tremendous job he did,” said manager Gabe Kapler.
The postseason served as the stage on which he could display his talents to a national audience. In Game 3, he dazzled by recording a six-out save -- getting some help from the rabid Southern California wind in the process. He is, more than likely, San Francisco’s closer of the future.
“He should feel proud that he’s in that situation, that they trusted him enough to put him out there in that spot,” said catcher Buster Posey. “I don’t think it’s any secret that he’s got a bright future.”
Doval has done it with a calm, composed demeanor, one that sharply contrasts his electrifying fastball and devastating slider. After retiring Trea Turner to end the eighth on Thursday, Doval walked off with an ease that felt out of place for a winner-take-all elimination game. Kapler cited that calmness as one of the reasons his future's so bright.
Kapler added: “He’s going to be not just fine. He’s going to be good.”
For Doval to inherit these responsibilities is a testament to how quickly he has grown since the season started. Doval was not on the Opening Day roster, and he was optioned on three occasions. The fastball -- one that ranks in the 98th percentile in spin rate and 99th percentile in velocity -- was alluring, as was his slider that fell off the table. But Doval had trouble commanding either.
Upon being recalled in September, everything fell into place. He cut the walks and the homers, but he maintained the strikeout stuff. He was named NL Reliever of the Month in September after not allowing a single run across 14 1/3 innings with 20 strikeouts.
The question around Doval then shifted from ability to role. An injury that sidelined closer Jake McGee in mid-September provided the opportunity to close. Doval’s outings left no doubt that he belonged.
This moment, of course, is a bitter pill to swallow. It wasn’t one Doval had to endure alone.
When Doval arrived back in the dugout after surrendering the go-ahead single to Cody Bellinger, his teammates had his back. Logan Webb, who pitched seven innings of one-run ball, gave Doval a hug. When Doval was asked who else supported him, he replied, “They all did.”
“He’s going to be a big part of this team for a long time,” said Webb. “I think that’s the first thing he needs to know is how big a part of the team that he’s going to be in the future and to not let that get his confidence down.
“It’s crazy to see how calm he is when he comes into the game, and I don’t think that’s going to change, but I hope this doesn’t get him down at all.”