The Giants have mostly won with strong pitching this season. They occasionally have won with a big night from the lineup, or with stellar defense. On Thursday, they might have won because of something you won't find on scouting reports. They might have won because of honesty and good communication.
Manager Gabe Kapler has tried to convince players to be open at all times, no matter what the result might be, and that paid off in Thursday's 3-1 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates. Right-hander Anthony DeSclafani felt "heavy and sluggish" while warming up, but he didn't try to just bull through it. He told the staff, which led to what, on the surface, was a very strange managerial decision.
DeSclafani had thrown just 76 pitches in five one-hit innings when Kapler pulled him for pinch-hitter Darin Ruf. It seemed the manager was going for a knockout punch, with a three-run lead, two runners on and a lefty on the mound waiting for Ruf. There was much more at play, though.
"We pride ourselves that we're going to listen when our pitchers are talking to us about the way they're feeling, and I really, really respect the honesty, because it allows us to respond," Kapler said.
He was able to do it in two ways, taking a reasonable shot with Ruf -- who ended up grounding out -- but also protecting DeSclafani. The game was turned over to the bullpen, and Caleb Baragar, Zack Littell, Camilo Doval, and Tyler Rogers combined to allow just one run and close out the 23rd win over the year.
DeSclafani still did more than enough to earn his third win. He felt like it was a grind, but he also knew he could soak up innings and keep the Giants in the game until they could go with Plan B. It all worked out perfectly, and it ended up being another good sign of the buy-in Kapler and his methods have from the clubhouse.
"It's just being honest with myself and being honest with him. I think he just wants honesty on how pitchers are feeling," DeSclafani said. "As a player, as a competitor, it's hard sometimes to be honest with yourself. I think this is really, like, the first time I ever did that, just kind of opened up and was honest with how I was feeling. I don't want to risk hurting myself and I also don't want to risk putting the team in a bad spot the rest of the game."
"We're up three runs. I was able to get through five innings. We're in a good spot, and at the end of the day it's about the team winning and I just wanted to be able to put the team first and make sure we had the best chance to win the ballgame."
DeSclafani might not have been the only one to do that. Brandon Belt has been battling a sore side for a little over a week, and when he felt it during batting practice, he told Kapler. The manager inserted Steven Duggar into the lineup, and Duggar gave the Giants the lead with his first homer since June 11, 2019.
"It was just rewarding," Duggar said. "It was definitely rewarding tonight to see the swing come along. It's really just honing in on the game plan, the preparation, everything that goes into it. It was nice."
Duggar has been a new hitter since his latest stint at the alternate site, giving Kapler a little bit of unexpected depth. That's made it a lot easier to get through days when others aren't at their best, but Kapler has made it clear that he wants open lines of communication regardless of what the roster or record looks like. On Thursday, that paid off.