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Giants' bullpen has let down their strong starting rotation

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Gabe Kapler generally is relentlessly positive, but even he probably didn't expect to get through the first five games with his rotation being a strength. It was a group that came into camp with question marks, none of which were really answered because so many of the spring starts took place on back fields or in simulated games. 

Through five games, though, Giants starters have a 2.93 ERA and are getting deep enough into games for this time of year. It's a huge positive. It's also something Kapler wasn't really in the mood to talk about after a 3-1 loss to the San Diego Padres.

"It's hard for me to get especially excited about even the fact that our starters did a good job the first time through after a loss tonight that was disappointing," he said during his Zoom press conference. "But I can say that's definitely an encouraging note."

It's hard for Kapler to focus on that positive right now because so much else is going wrong. The lineup had three hits Tuesday, and while Brandon Crawford smashed the 10th homer in five games, the group has just 17 total runs. The Giants, an organization built around the K/BB column, have 51 strikeouts and 13 walks on this trip.

The other problem is one that you could have more easily seen coming. There were reasons to have questions about the bullpen, and on Tuesday the Giants once again lost late. Matt Wisler, who has given up six runs and recorded five outs this season, allowed a two-run homer to Matt Caratini that was the difference. 

 

"He left a slider in the middle of the plate," Kapler said. "Caratini put a good swing on it. It's pretty simple."

You can say the same about the Giants' formula right now. They're not sustaining rallies, and they're outgunned late in games, but long-term, their lineup should be fine and they can make changes to the bullpen pretty easily. If the rotation keeps pitching like this, they will have a chance to surprise some people. 

After a spring where much of the talk was about how behind pitchers would be this year, all five starters went at least five innings the first time out, with Kevin Gausman pitching into the seventh and Logan Webb and Johnny Cueto recording outs in the sixth. Gausman, Anthony DeSclafani and Aaron Sanchez allowed one run each in their outings. 

Sanchez was the last to go, and he was the biggest mystery. He signed late after blowing teams away in a showcase, and the Giants kept him under wraps most of the spring, preferring that he get his work in against teammates on back fields. He showed off some of his old stuff on Tuesday, though, particularly a curveball that he threw 22 times and used time after time in big spots. 

Sanchez was slow-played in the spring, so it wasn't a surprise that he started to leak oil in the fifth, but he dug deep and struck out Tommy Pham with an elevated fastball, avoiding the heart of the order, and a likely visit from the manager. Sanchez was happy to get through that moment, but mostly, he was just happy to be on the mound, period. 

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The 28-year-old missed all of the 2020 season after having shoulder surgery the summer before, and Tuesday's start was his first since August of 2019. He tried to soak it all in, taking as many positives away from his first start in orange and black as possible. 

"You don't know after an injury like that what the outcome holds," Sanchez said. "You work tirelessly for a goal. You don't really know what the outcome is going to be. To be able to walk between those lines before inning number one was super special. I felt like I was back in my element."

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