Giants relievers step up in series-clinching victory

García and Doval escape bases-loaded jams to hold Dodgers lineup in check

June 12th, 2022

SAN FRANCISCO -- There's nothing more high-leverage than loading the bases in the late innings against a team that could take the lead with one swing. The Giants did that -- twice -- and somehow lived to tell the tale.

Jarlín García inherited a serious jam when he entered the seventh inning of the Giants' 3-2 win over the Dodgers at Oracle Park on Saturday. Zack Littell had faced three batters to open the inning, and after a walk and a pair of base hits, the bases were loaded.

It took just seven pitches for García to record three outs and keep the Dodgers off the board.

Closer Camilo Doval escaped a bases-loaded jam of his own in the eighth inning, stranding two runners he had inherited from García and slamming the door to protect his team's slim lead.

"That's why they're in those big moments, because both of them have the ability to slow things down," said manager Gabe Kapler, who also credited quality assurance coach Nick Ortiz with helping his relievers remain grounded. "[García and Doval] knew those were big moments in a game that very much felt like a playoff atmosphere, but they were able to settle and deliver strikes, and big ones at that."

Added Doval, through interpreter Erwin Higueros: "[García and I] both were just enjoying the moment."

García and Doval, along with the other five San Francisco pitchers who appeared in Saturday's bullpen game, rose to the occasion in huge moments. And with yet another starting pitcher missing time due to injury, the Giants need clutch performances out of their bullpen more than ever.

Before Saturday's game, the Giants placed right-hander Jakob Junis (Grade 2 hamstring strain) on the injured list. He joined fellow starters Anthony DeSclafani (right ankle inflammation) and Alex Cobb (neck strain), both of whom could return later in June.

With three starters on the shelf, that leaves the bullpen to pick up the slack. And the 'pen, which is tied for 22nd in the Majors with a 4.26 ERA, has been quietly putting up an impressive week.

San Francisco's bullpen was a blemish on the team in May, recording a Major League-worst 6.26 ERA. The bullpen woes weren't immediately resolved once the calendar flipped to June, but things are beginning to take a turn for the better. In the last seven games, Giants relievers had combined to allow seven earned runs in 31 innings, for a 2.03 ERA. That's a solid week of relief pitching.

"Over the course of a year … it's been a bullpen that has consistently performed," Kapler said. "When we go through a stretch or a month where you just have a calendar date where things don't go so well, we go, ‘Yeah, probably the next calendar month will be better.’"

That said, the Giants now have just three true starters on the active roster, so who can they turn to for multiple innings?

One candidate is Sam Long. Long tossed the first three innings of Saturday's bullpen game on 48 pitches, a season high. The southpaw has now gone three innings in back-to-back outings for the first time this season, receiving high praise from Kapler -- although the Giants manager did not want to assign a strict role to Long.

"I'm very comfortable having him pitch in a bulk role at the beginning of the game," Kapler said. "I wouldn't call it necessarily opening. Starting a game for us and then going as deep as possible. But we have a lot of candidates who can do similar things."

Long has served in a fluid role in his two seasons in San Francisco, often going multiple innings, though not always to open the game. Going into Saturday, Long had made three starts in 2022, allowing one earned run in four innings.

Long said one of the biggest adjustments in entering the game early versus late is his tempo -- but he's starting to figure that out.

"That's really the only thing I've been focusing on," Long said, "pounding the zone and keeping my pace quick, and just trying to make the batter feel as uncomfortable as I can."

The Fair Oaks, Calif., native wasn't too worried about his specific role on the pitching staff. Instead, he relished the opportunity to go toe to toe with Clayton Kershaw and help his team to a win in the fierce rivalry matchup.

"Dodgers-Giants games, they never fail to keep you on your toes. You always know they're going to be good," Long said. "Getting the chance to beat the Dodgers is something I'm always going to look forward to."