SAN DIEGO — Every day this season, Giants relievers have taken the field a few hours before first pitch to play catch. They do it as a large group, smiling and laughing and often throwing a football around to stay loose.
That wasn’t the case Thursday morning. A very small group played catch at Petco Park in the morning, a sign that Gabe Kapler did not have his full bullpen available. He confirmed as much before the game, but he was hopeful Logan Webb could get deep. Nothing went according to plan.
Webb threw 45 pitches in the first inning and lasted just four innings, and yet there the Giants were in the 10th, looking at a golden opportunity to steal a win. They couldn’t do it, and instead they watched as the Padres walked them off, 7-6, on an infield single from Victor Caratini that brought Jurickson Profar racing home ahead of Tommy La Stella’s throw.
There was a lot to digest afterward, from Webb’s short start, to the bullpen usage, to the decision to pitch to Caratini rather than loading the bases or bringing in a fifth outfielder. But ultimately, the blame is best placed on the top of the 10th inning.
Lefty Ross Detwiler had diminished stuff, got visited by a trainer, and walked La Stella to put two on with no outs. The Giants had the heart of their order coming up, and Detwiler went 3-0 on both Brandon Belt and Kris Bryant. But Belt flied out and Bryant popped up, followed by Steven Duggar’s groundout.
The Giants had a chance to break the game open against a struggling pitcher and give their gassed bullpen some wiggle room. They came up short.
“I'll certainly take our chances with Brandon Belt in a 3-0 and then subsequently a 3-1 count and then Kris Bryant in the same situation against a pitcher that -- obviously no disrespect -- wasn't at his best and throwing balls,” Kapler said. “Unfortunately we weren't able to cash that in. I felt pretty good about our opportunities there and we had the right guys in the right situations. Sometimes you're off the barrel and you pop it up and other times you put it in the gap or the seats. It’s obviously disappointing to not have that 10th inning turn out differently.”
The disappointment was magnified by the fact that the Dodgers were able to complete their own comeback attempt and win their 10-inning game, cutting the Giants’ NL West lead to one game. Max Muncy hit a two-run homer in the 10th to down the Rockies, who will host the Giants this weekend. It seems likely they’ll see a slightly different group than the one that left Petco Park.
It was clear Kapler wanted to stay away from Tyler Rogers, Tony Watson, Camilo Doval and possibly Dominic Leone on Thursday. Leone got into the game in the 10th, and Kapler said others down there were volunteering to pitch a third straight day.
“It shows me a lot about our pen and how tough they are,” he said.
The group might need reinforcements, though. Coors Field is unforgiving under any circumstance, and the Giants have Alex Wood — who is still building his strength after a bout of COVID-19 — starting Friday. Kapler said the staff would talk about the need to possibly add a fresh arm.
“We have found ways to cover tough situations in the past, we’ll find a way to cover this one,” he said. “We know that it won’t be ideal, but that doesn’t mean that we won’t be fine.”