The Giants have had some wild bullpen experiences over the last half decade.
The 2016 team, one that looked capable of extending the Even Year Magic, was undone by an inability to close out games. That led to the ill-fated Mark Melancon addition, which didn't work out and ultimately went a long way toward costing Bobby Evans his job as general manager.
Even by that standard, the last two days have been hard to stomach.
About 22 hours after he blew a five-run lead, closer Trevor Gott couldn't hold a three-run cushion, and he couldn't even play for the tie. Gott gave up a three-run homer to Mark Canha with two outs, two strikes and a two-run lead in the ninth and the Giants lost 7-6 to the A's.
This game has been played for well over a century. You'd have a hard time finding many back-to-back regular season bullpen meltdowns that carried this kind of sting.
"It's tough," manager Gabe Kapler said. "It's tough to lose two games like that."
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Kapler has taken a lot of the blame this season, and much of it is warranted. There have been decisions that raised eyebrows, but at some point, this falls on the players. The Giants went into the season with three arms -- Tony Watson, Tyler Rogers and Gott -- they trusted in the late innings, and Rogers has chipped away at that faith at times.
Kapler doesn't have many options, but he used all three of those arms Saturday after Kevin Gausman's strong start was backed by Darin Ruf's three-run homer that gave the Giants a 6-3 lead. Gott had been dependable until Friday, allowing one run over his first six appearances and saving four games.
But he has now given up nine runs and four homers over his last two appearances, with seven coming on blasts by Stephen Piscotty and Canha, who always has enjoyed tweaking the Giants.
THE A’S DID IT AGAIN 😱😱😱 pic.twitter.com/00WBHeoPw4— A's on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) August 16, 2020
"It happens. That's baseball. It happens to everyone. I just happened to have two in a row," Gott said on a Zoom call with reporters. "It's very unfortunate that they're tough losses, but you've just got to keep going. Obviously it's not as long a season as there usually is but there's a lot of baseball still left."
There will only be 38 games left for the Giants if they can't figure out the late innings. They hoped to be a surprise participant in the expanded playoffs, and the starting staff is coming together, with Gausman looking dominant at times. He struck out 11 and left with the score tied, and Ruf took old friend Burch Smith deep a few minutes later, swinging the game with his first homer on American soil in four years.
The Giants have been spunky offensively in the late innings, but much of that has been wiped away by an inexperienced bullpen that has a habit for giving up homers in the worst possible spot.
Canha's blast was the sixth against Giants pitchers in the ninth inning. Overall, they've allowed 36 homers in 22 games.
"They put some good swings on bad pitches and that's what happens at the major league level," Gott said.
The right-hander was not helped by a poor read by Hunter Pence on Tony Kemp's double, just as a night before he was partially undone by Wilmer Flores' mistake at first. But Gott has still missed repeatedly with location over the last two days, and the A's seemed unimpressed by his mid 90s fastball Saturday. Gott said he remains confident, and Kapler backed his reliever.
"I still believe in Trevor Gott," Kapler said.
Kapler knew what he was getting into when he took the Giants job. This is a rebuild, particularly in the bullpen, where no major money has been spent in the last two years and the Giants are basically holding auditions for future contenders. Gott was supposed to be an exception, though. He was supposed to be trustworthy, the type who could help Kapler -- who faced questions about his bullpen management in Philadelphia -- avoid this type of weekend.
Kapler has kept it positive after losses this year, but on Saturday his poker face wasn't quite there. He said the Giants have a better brand of baseball within them, but he wore a pained expression.
"I think it's very difficult to deal with the last couple of losses," he said. "It's part of baseball, but at the same time I feel it's appropriate to feel the sting of them and to acknowledge the sting of them. Beyond that, I know we have better baseball in us."