Best in West: Giants KO Buehler, hold off LA

September 6th, 2021

SAN FRANCISCO -- Even amidst his team’s struggles with runners in scoring position, manager Gabe Kapler saw a silver lining: things could change quickly. With one big swing, one big inning, those troubles could dissipate. Kapler’s silver lining, then, may have possessed some golden truth.

Behind several timely swings, the Giants tagged Cy Young contender Walker Buehler for a season-high six runs in their 6-4 win over the Dodgers on Sunday at Oracle Park, once again reclaiming their spot alone as the best in the NL West.

“We were prepared and I thought our at-bats were of good quality and we got enough big hits in today’s game to win,” Kapler said.

That performance at the plate was a necessary reversal of course. In their previous six games, the Giants were 10-for-67 with runners in scoring position. They put together plenty of mini rallies; they just couldn’t capitalize.

That wasn’t the case on Sunday through the first couple innings. ’s solo home run to deep right-center field in the first inning opened up the scoring off Buehler and got the crowd buzzing, but it was recently recalled who provided the swing San Francisco has needed.

In his first plate appearance back from Triple-A Sacramento, Duggar lined a cutter into the right-field corner, allowing Brandon Crawford and Mike Yastrzemski to easily score. With right fielder Mookie Betts shaded toward Triples Alley, Duggar tripled without a throw, sliding into third for style points. Oracle Park was buzzing. Duggar was pumped. San Francisco had its clutch swing.

“I thought he set the tone there with the swing, and then I also thought he set the tone with the baserunning,” Kapler said.

“It’s tough to see him go down because he hadn’t played so well, but just to see him come back up and jump right in, not only was it cool to watch him do that, but it was huge for our team as well,” Belt said.

As Kapler theorized following Saturday’s loss, the ability to hit with runners in scoring position was contagious as several Giants followed suit with timely knocks. The end result was Buehler’s worst start of the season; along with the season-high six runs, Buehler went a season-low three innings.

Buehler’s start was brief by his standards, but it was the longest outing of the evening by any hurler as the Giants rolled with a second straight bullpen game. To get through nine innings, San Francisco deployed nine pitchers. It was the fifth time in franchise history that the Giants used nine or more pitchers in a nine-inning game and Kapler assessed that the moves were, in a word, aggressive.

Of all the relievers Kapler rolled out, rookie Camilo Doval, who was recalled prior to the game, had the most interesting outing.

Doval was brought in with two outs and the bases loaded, and it was clear that the adrenaline was flowing when his first warmup pitch sailed over catcher Curt Casali and hit the backstop.

The flamethrower appeared to strike out Will Smith on a perfectly placed 3-2 fastball on the outside edge, but the pitch was called a ball and a run scored, much to the dismay of San Francisco’s dugout. Doval, to his credit, bounced right back and struck out Chris Taylor, ending the inning and leaving three ducks on the pond.

“I do think Camilo did a really nice job of collecting himself,” Kapler said.

What Kapler probably could have anticipated, given how this season series has unfolded, was late-inning drama.

Albert Pujols clubbed a pinch-hit, two-run home run off closer Jake McGee in the ninth, slicing San Francisco’s lead to two runs. When Max Muncy slapped a one-out single, Los Angeles brought the tying run to the plate, thickening the drama.

McGee struck out Mookie Betts looking on a questionable inside fastball, giving the Giants two outs. The southpaw then got Justin Turner to fly out to Yastrzemski, but Turner immediately contended that the ball hit the netting in foul territory first. A brief replay review confirmed that Yastrzemski made a clean catch.

“Baseball is theater and these fans appreciate an exciting moment,” Kapler said.

There have been no shortage of exciting moments when these two teams have met this season, and there likely won’t be should they meet in October.

As things stand, there’s a possibility that San Francisco and Los Angeles meet in the NLDS. It would be the first time the two rivals have ever played each other in the postseason. This series, as well as the others, have been filled with memorable moments. With how well they’ve played one another all year, a date several weeks from now almost feels destined.

“I can imagine that’d be the most intense postseason series I could ever be a part of,” Belt said. “I think it’d be a lot of fun.”