SAN FRANCISCO -- In the bottom of the second inning Saturday night, with the Giants trailing by two runs, Tommy La Stella stepped out of the dugout and into the on-deck circle. The home bullpen started humming, and Gabe Kapler started running through the math on what would have been a stunning move.
Would Kapler really hit La Stella for starting pitcher Kevin Gausman after just six outs? He didn't have a chance to fully show his cards. Donovan Solano hit a sacrifice fly, and with two outs now, Kapler stuck with Gausman.
It was a night of decisions for Kapler -- managing in his second postseason game -- and the Giants. After a 9-2 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers at Oracle Park, they had some regrets, but also the knowledge that no single decision cost them this game. The Dodgers on this night were that good.
"The Dodgers just swung the bats better than us, made more pitches than us, made more plays than us," Kapler said.
The Dodgers pulled away, evening at one game apiece this NLDS that now will head to Dodger Stadium. But they did so with some help from the Giants.
It started in the top of the second, when Kapler put up four fingers for A.J. Pollock, electing to instead have Gausman pitch to opposing starter Julio Urias. Urias was one of the better-hitting pitchers in the NL this year, but he's still a pitcher.
"You prefer to face Julio Urias," Kapler said. "Obviously we would like to have that one back, probably would make the same decision, but would like to record an out there, of course."
Urias got a hanging splitter from Gausman and poked it into right for the first run, one that Mookie Betts compared to Steph Curry watching that first 3-pointer go in to kick off a big game.
"I just made a mistake right there trying to throw it for a strike," Gausman said. "Looking back, that's probably one of the difference-makers in the game, obviously."
Another one came in the fifth, and this was another Gausman-related decision. He had cruised through the middle innings, but with one out and a one-run deficit, Kapler thought of pinch-hitting. The problem was he had a bench full of lefties, not a great matchup against Urias. He stuck with Gausman, who struck out, and then came out in the next inning and was charged with two runs.
Kapler called it "the biggest decision point in the game." He said Gausman was throwing well, and Buster Posey felt good about the pitcher's stuff.
"Still, at that point, you may choose to use a pinch-hitter and see if you can get a baserunner on for the top of the lineup," Kapler said. "One thing that's sort of unfortunate in that situation is you have all lefties to run up there against Urias. But it is an important decision point and perhaps you say in a clean [sixth] inning for Dom Leone, maybe things go a little bit different."
Leone instead entered in the sixth with the Giants on the ropes. He gave up back-to-back doubles, but still, the Giants weren't done. It was 6-1 when they rallied in the bottom of the inning, with Brandon Crawford's single bringing a run home and seemingly putting two on for Evan Longoria. Except Wilmer Flores, one of the slowest players in the majors, tried to go first to third. Betts threw him out.
Flores said he thought the ball was further to the corner. He said it was completely his decision to go for third. He said he had regrets.
"Yeah, 100 percent," he said.
None of those decisions alone cost the Giants the game. But they added up, and a sloppy performance means they now need at least one win at Dodger Stadium to keep their season alive.
"They're a tough team," Leone said. "They're never going to go away, just like we're not going to go away. Unfortunately things swung in their way tonight."