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Giants' bullpen lets them down again in loss vs. Rockies

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Charlie Blackmon

As the Rockies rushed to home plate to celebrate and Giants hitters walked off the field with stunned looks on their faces, manager Gabe Kapler waited for his pitcher.

Camilo Doval is 23 years old and a veteran of just eight big league appearances, the last one being by far the toughest. Jake McGee started the trouble in the bottom of the seventh and Doval was on the mound when the Rockies put the finishing touches on a six-run, game-winning rally, giving up a three-run homer to Charlie Blackmon that handed the Giants a stomach-churning 8-6 loss

Kapler thought Doval might take the moment hard. He wanted to make sure that wasn't the case. 

"That was my No. 1 goal, to tell him that he's fine and to tell him that I'm proud of him," Kapler said, "And that he did everything right. Ultimately, the first thing you do when you come out of the game and you're Camilo is you question yourself. 'Did I throw the right pitch? Did I throw it with enough conviction? Did I throw it hard enough?' 

"He just got beat by a really good hitter who worked an excellent at-bat. You can't emphasize this enough, this is what baseball is all about. That's going to happen sometimes, but over the course of a long period of time he's going to record a lot of outs, he's getting a lot of swings and misses with the same pitches that he threw tonight."

 

Kapler was responding to a question about Doval, but he also started his postgame press conference by, unprompted, saying similar things about the rookie, who was asked to pick up his first career save in the most unforgiving park in the majors. The short speech was a reminder that the Giants are walking dual paths. 

They are developing players at the big league level, and they don't want them to lose any confidence after nights like this one. But they are also competing, more than anyone thought they would, and losses like this one sting when you're fighting to make it a three-team race in the NL West. They should, at least. 

The story on this night was simple: The Giants had a chance to sweep a doubleheader against the worst team in the division and potentially the worst in the National League, but they gave up six runs in the bottom of the seventh inning. 

Doval was only around for the end of it, and even that represented a problem. Kapler went through the first month with two trustworthy relievers, McGee and setup man Tyler Rogers. But McGee has quietly been leaking oil for a couple of weeks now. He had allowed four runs -- including three homers -- in his previous five appearances, and the Rockies jumped on him. Three singles and a double chased McGee, who was charged with four earned runs and now carries a 5.54 ERA after opening his Giants career with eight shutout appearances. 

"His fastball doesn't have its best life right now -- I think that's not tough to tell," Kapler said. "When he's at his best his fastball is really carrying through the zone and he's missing more bats than he is right now."

Kapler had already used Rogers, so he turned to Doval with a runner on first, two outs and dangerous right-handed-hitter C.J. Cron at the plate. Cron blooped a pitch to right that had a 10 percent hit probability but fell between second baseman Wilmer Flores and right fielder Steven Duggar. It was the kind of ball that often only falls at Coors, and often signals more trouble is ahead. 

Blackmon was off to a slow start, but he got to Doval, who stuck with the same strategy throughout the inning. Since Jurickson Profar jumped on a 99 mph fastball over the weekend, Doval has nearly exclusively thrown his slider. He threw just two fastballs to 12 sliders, and when the last one hung, Blackmon yanked it into the seats. 

"I think if (Doval) rips another slider that is a little bit below the zone, we might get a swing and miss there," Kapler said. "I also think he has the elevated fastball as an option, but again, if you're going to throw the slider over and over and rip it with conviction like he did, eventually a ball is going to sit in the middle of the plate. With a hitter as good as Charlie Blackmon, eventually he's going to get on one. That's just baseball and that's what I told him."

 
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There will be much better days ahead for Doval, who has the stuff and poise to be Kapler's closer one day. But on this day, Kapler's actual closer failed, further exposing a hole on this roster. 

The Giants have one of the best rotations in baseball and a lineup full of veterans, many of whom broke out over 14 innings. But their bullpen is a work in progress, which is exactly what you would expect from a rebuilding team. The problem is, the Giants played so well in April that expectations have shifted. They need every win they can get to stay in this race for the long haul, and one slipped right through their fingers on Tuesday night. 

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