Gabe Kapler's first experience with MLB's quirky new extra-innings rule was one he'll never forget, for all the wrong reasons.
The Giants completely unraveled in the 10th inning, giving up six runs in an eventual 12-7 loss to the Padres, with an embarrassing moment for Kapler and his new staff mixed into the middle of the carnage. Kapler came out to remove Tyler Rogers with four runs already in, but because pitching coach Andrew Bailey had just been out to the mound, Rogers was not allowed to be removed. He was called back from the dugout to face one more batter.
The moment brought back memories of two previous screwups, one that Kapler's predecessor caught and one that Kapler made himself.
One of Bruce Bochy's finest regular season moments came in 2010 when he caught Don Mattingly turning around and going back to the mound for what counted as a second visit, causing the umpires to remove Jonathan Broxton in a game the Giants would go on to win. One of Kapler's lowest moments in his first stint as a manager came in his first series, when he called for a reliever -- Hoby Milner -- who wasn't even warming up. The umpires took pity on Milner and did let him get a few tosses in for the sake of his health, but Kapler reportedly received a letter from MLB for his decision that day.
Kapler came to San Francisco hoping to leave bullpen management questions in his past, and he generally pushed the right buttons through the first six games this season, particularly in two wins over the Dodgers over the weekend. That wasn't the case Thursday, and he started his postgame press conference with an explanation.
"That was just a mental screw-up on my part," Kapler said. "I've been around the game for a long time and I just had a lapse in memory in the dugout. We were talking about a lot of different things and I popped out there and went and got him and obviously that was just a mental screwup on my part. I just wanted to own that. It's 100 percent my responsibility."
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Kapler also apologized to Rogers, who was the one left hanging. In the worst outing of his career, the right-hander already had made it back to the dugout when the umpires informed the Giants of the mistake. Rogers stood and stared out at the meeting on the mound for a few seconds, then walked back out for one more pitch, a squeeze bunt that gave the Padres their fifth run of an inning that started with a runner on second.
"Gabe is a stand-up guy and when he makes a mistake, he'll be the first one to say it," Roger said. "I told him it's OK. If I would have just pitched a little better, he wouldn't have had to do that."
Rogers had an easy ninth, and when the game went to extras he became the first Giant to experience the runner-on-second rule, which is designed to speed up games in this season being played during a pandemic. He walked Manny Machado on a blown 3-1 call and then gave up a single to Tommy Pham that brought the placed runner home.
Trevor Gott was warming up, but Kapler stuck with Rogers. He drilled a batter and gave up two more singles, and when Austin Hedges walked up to the plate with no outs, Bailey came out for a meeting that allowed Rico Garcia a bit more time to get loose. When Bailey returned to the dugout, Hedges dug in and got ready. But Kapler -- who has tended to jog out for pitching changes -- left the dugout and walked towards the mound, signaling for Garcia with his right arm.
Because Bailey and Kapler had gone out back-to-back, Rogers was sent back out during the commercial break.
"Gabe came and got the ball from me so I walked into the dugout, that's about all it was," Rogers said. "They told me I had to go back out. No big deal. You just roll with it."
Rogers gave up a fifth run before departing for good -- legally, this time. Garcia finished off the inning, and the Giants brought their own placed runner home in the bottom of the frame. But it was far too little, too late, and didn't distract from a difficult moment for a manager trying to prove that he was the right choice.
The Giants were off to a solid 3-3 start entering the night, and they wiped out a five-run deficit to send this one to extras. That 10th inning was tough to swallow, though, and it brought back some bad memories for the new manager.
"I think the most important thing is I just own it and take responsibility for it," Kapler said. "And don't make the same mistake twice."