Giants

Gabe Kapler's faith in Hunter Pence, veterans pays off in Giants' win

Giants

Twice a day, every day, Gabe Kapler logs onto Zoom to talk to reporters. You could search and search through those hours of film and you'd have a hard time finding many moments when Kapler was even a little bit negative. 

Ask Kapler about Hunter Pence's massive struggles and he'll say he believes in the track record and the work Pence is putting in behind the scenes. Ask about the slumping Brandons and he'll say the swings are better than the results. Ask why he has so much faith in Tyler Rogers, who has gotten rocked early on this year, and he'll say that the submariner is his Swiss Army Knife and remains a valuable weapon in late innings. 

After Monday night's loss, one in which the Giants flirted with getting no-hit and committed three more errors, Kapler sat down and took all the hard questions, then asked if he could make a statement before his time was up. He talked about how great Austin Slater's batting practice was earlier in the day. 

Kapler has shown tremendous faith in a group whose play on the field often begs for more turnover, and in Tuesday's 7-6 comeback win over the Astros, that faith was rewarded. 

Pence, 2-for-32 at the time, hit a three-run homer in the seventh. Brandon Crawford, hitting just .204 this year, had the game-winning hit in the 10th. Rogers entered with an 11.88 ERA and stranded a runner in scoring position for his first career save. Tyler Heineman, who has taken some heat for three catcher interference calls this season, picked up his own save by gloving a wild breaking ball with the tying run on third. 

 

"He has expressed confidence and understands that these kinds of things go on in baseball and it's about the process, it's about doing the work and having good approaches," Pence said of Kapler. "I'm really enjoying a lot of work these hitting (coaches) have done and also the support of Kap. It's been really a big lift for me."

While Pence has seen all the highs and lows one can expect in this game, Rogers, a second-year reliever, is dealing with his first real doubt in the big leagues. He pitched well in Triple-A, dominated in a September call-up, and had two camps this year that were so impressive he looked like a potential closer. 

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

But Rogers has had high-profile blowups in the first three weeks of his first full season. After he gave up a game-swinging homer to A.J. Pollock in Los Angeles on Sunday, Kapler approached the reliever. 

"He came to me and was like, 'I haven't lost any confidence in you, you're still one of my guys,'" Rogers said. "That's big when a manager does that. After a couple tough games, to be able to validate his decision tonight to put me back in there was just rewarding for me."

Rogers took the mound the first time the Giants ever dealt with the new extra-innings rule, a game that ended up being an embarrassing loss. The Giants gave up six runs in the top of the 10th that night and Kapler pulled Rogers when he wasn't allowed to, a move he later apologized for. Given another shot, though, he went right back to Rogers. 

"I tell you what, it was good to get another crack at it," Rogers said. 

With George Springer on second, Rogers got a grounder and two strikeouts to pick up his first save. His twin brother, Taylor, has 36 of them in the big leagues, and you can bet at some point Kapler will give his version another shot at closing the gap. 

[RELATED: How Slater's adjustment hints at a breakout with Giants]

There will be nights when Kapler pays dearly for being so loyal. He already has several times this season. But on Tuesday, it all led to perhaps the best win of the year for a team that's proven to be pretty resilient. 

 

"We've been scoring a lot of runs late," Pence said. "We do have a team mindset of keep fighting, be as scrappy as we can, grit it out and keep going."