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Kapler instills confidence in Giant comeback

Dickerson, Dubón homer, then Ruf comes up clutch off bench
@mi_guardado
September 9, 2020

SAN FRANCISCO -- After Logan Webb returned to the Giants’ dugout following a rough second inning against the Mariners, he was pulled aside for a quick chat by manager Gabe Kapler. Webb was battling command issues that plunged the Giants into an early hole, but Kapler expressed full confidence in

SAN FRANCISCO -- After Logan Webb returned to the Giants’ dugout following a rough second inning against the Mariners, he was pulled aside for a quick chat by manager Gabe Kapler.

Webb was battling command issues that plunged the Giants into an early hole, but Kapler expressed full confidence in the 23-year-old rookie and his ability to work through the adversity.

“He was like, ‘Hey, you're going to go five, right?’” Webb said. “‘You're going to go five, maybe six. You're going to keep us in this game, and you’re going to get a win.’ That kind of gave me the confidence to keep going out there and keep competing.”

Webb ultimately recovered from the rocky start and managed to get through five innings, and San Francisco’s relentless offense and improved bullpen took care of the rest. Alex Dickerson, Mauricio Dubón and Darin Ruf each homered to help the Giants erase a four-run deficit and defeat the Mariners, 6-5, in Tuesday's series opener at Oracle Park.

Box score

The Giants trailed, 5-1, in the third inning, but they came back to tie the game on Dubón’s towering, two-run shot in the fourth and then went ahead, 6-5, on Ruf’s pinch-hit homer in the seventh. Relievers Caleb Baragar, Tyler Rogers, Jarlín García and Tony Watson combined to throw four scoreless innings to lock down the fourth consecutive win for the Giants (22-21), who are now back over .500 for the first time since they were 5-4 on Aug. 1.

Tuesday’s victory, which halted Seattle’s six-game winning streak, moved the Giants 1 1/2 games ahead of the Rockies for the eighth and final National League postseason spot with 17 games left to play.

While Kapler came under scrutiny for questionable in-game management earlier this season, he seems to be pushing all the right buttons as the Giants enter their final sprint toward October.

Dickerson departed Monday’s game in the fourth inning after fouling a ball off his right knee, but he was cleared to return to action on Tuesday and helped spark the Giants’ 11th comeback win of the year by hammering a fastball from Mariners right-hander Brady Lail over the right-field wall for his eighth home run of the season in the third.

The 30-year-old slugger endured a slow start to the year and was batting only .195 through his first 28 games, but he said Kapler gave him a similar pep talk last month that helped restore his confidence.

“He's been amazing at it this year, picking the right times,” Dickerson said. “Right there with Webby was just one example. He did it with me when I was kind of at my lowest point. He came up and said he still had confidence in me. He picks the right time when you need to hear it most. I think guys really respond to it.”

Kapler also picked the right time to go to his bench on Tuesday.

After the Mariners brought in lefty reliever Anthony Misiewicz with the game tied in the seventh, Kapler sent Ruf up to pinch-hit for Dickerson to attempt to exploit the platoon advantage. Ruf subsequently delivered, crushing a curveball to left-center field to put the Giants ahead, 6-5. It was Ruf’s third homer this season and his first pinch-hit homer since 2016.

“Most of the time, it's not going to work out that way where you’re going to get a home run from the left side and then Ruf is going to come in and pinch-hit and hit a big home run,” Kapler said. “It just doesn't happen that frequently, so when it does work out in your favor, you remember how often it goes the other way and you really do appreciate it.”

After Ruf’s go-ahead blast, Kapler made one final substitution in left field, sending rookie Luis Basabe out as a late-inning defensive replacement in the eighth inning. With Dickerson banged up and Austin Slater unavailable to play the outfield due to an elbow issue, the Giants added Basabe to their 28-man roster shortly before game time and optioned infielder Daniel Robertson to the alternate training site in Sacramento.

The defensive upgrade also ended up paying off for the Giants, as the speedy Basabe chased down a fly ball into the left-center-field gap to end the eighth and help García post his 13th consecutive scoreless inning to start the season.

Kapler said he tried to keep himself even-keeled through the ups and downs of the season, but he acknowledged that it’s been satisfying to watch the Giants take off and overcome their early struggles.

“Personally, I'm certainly enjoying it,” Kapler said. “I feel happy for our players when they perform well. I really like to try to put them in the best possible positions to succeed. At the same time, I tend to stay even. It's not necessarily about positivity or anything like that. It's much more about I understand that there are going to be ups. I understand that there are going to be downs. Just like our hitters, they're going to be focused on the process, not on the result and on the outcome. In order for me to be a good leader, I have to do the same. I try to keep that in mind all the time.”

Maria Guardado covers the Giants for MLB.com. She previously covered the Angels from 2017-18. Follow her on Twitter.