Bullpen struggles overshadow great Giants' defense in loss

Dubon, Casali talking to Doval

The story of the Giants' game against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday should have been their stellar defense.

After all, San Francisco had three outfield assists and turned three double plays.

Instead, the story yet again was the Giants' bullpen, which blew a four-run lead in the seventh inning and watched as the Pirates walked off with the 8-6 win on a two-run homer in the ninth by Jacob Stallings.

While Zack Littell and Jarlin Garcia had scoreless appearances, Sam Selman, Camilo Doval and Jake McGee allowed two earned runs apiece.

The bullpen blowup Saturday comes on the heels of an extra-innings loss to the Pirates on Friday when Kevin Gausman pitched eight-plus innings only to see the bullpen cough up the lead in the ninth and lose the game in the 11th.

Despite what he has seen the last two nights, manager Gabe Kapler isn't worried about his relievers.

"I have confidence in everybody in our 'pen," Kapler said on a video conference call after the loss. "That doesn't mean that it's not a real challenge. It was nice to see Littell step up, and he continues to impress. Obviously [Tyler] Rogers has been excellent and McGee has had some struggles since a little bit before the Miami game, but he's also shown flashes of being the same dude. It's difficult to send him out there back-to-back. I think it makes it harder in these situations.


"We're trying to win games. Sometimes you have to call on your best to try to win them."

Doval, 23, has electric stuff and has a bright future ahead of him. But the rookie is really struggling through the first six weeks of the season. He now has an 8.38 ERA in 10 innings.

"I think he may be lacking a little bit of confidence right now," Kapler said of Doval after the game. "I mean, that's a possibility. We're definitely seeing the life on the fastball. We're definitely seeing some bite on the slider. Both of those weapons are a little bit inconsistent. One of the things that's difficult about a young pitcher, is while he can throw them hard and make them move, he has difficulty with hitting his spots and that's just going to take time and experience."

Kapler said that the Giants' coaching staff and veteran catchers Buster Posey and Curt Casali are constantly talking to Doval and encouraging him to be better with his location and get ahead of hitters.

Before the bullpen lost the game, the story of the night was Darin Ruf and the Giants' defense. The 34-year-old journeyman had not one, but two outfield assists Saturday, the first time in his big league career he has had multiple assists in a game.

In the bottom of the ninth inning, before McGee gave up the walk-off homer to Stallings, the Giants closer got some help on a great relay by Mike Tauchman and Brandon Crawford to nail Adam Frazier at the plate for the second out of the inning.

In the end, the defense couldn't save the Giants.

"Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, I start to think about the story of the game in the middle of the game," Kapler said. "And there were several occasions where I thought we were going to be having a conversation about how our defense won the game for us tonight. Ruf's throws were excellent and Crawford's relay was right on the money and Tauchman made an excellent play on that ball.

"We may have played our best overall defensive game and that just makes it more difficult to swallow that we didn't come away with the win."

RELATED: Pujols' reported Dodgers deal poses no threat to Giants

The good news for Kapler and the Giants is that they still are in first place in the NL West despite two rough losses. Even better news is that Alex Wood will take the ball Sunday as they go for a split of the four-game series.

If Wood can continue his strong pitching, Kapler might not have to turn to his bullpen in the series finale.

Download and subscribe to the Giants Talk Podcast