As Gabe Kapler printed out the lineup on Thursday morning, he marveled at its depth, how it was a group that would just keep coming at opposing pitchers. The Giants have been waiting weeks to get to full strength, and Kapler was thrilled when he got to slide Brandon Belt, a middle-of-the-order bat most of his career, into the seventh slot against a right-hander.
And then the game started, Merrill Kelly took the mound, and Kapler got a harsh reminder.
"We don't play this game on paper," he said after the game.
The beauty of it is that it's played by human beings. That includes guys like Kelly, capable on any given day of stepping his game up and shutting down a tough lineup. The decisions are made by human beings, too, no matter how much computers are getting involved these days, and Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo made a curious one.
Lovullo pulled a dominant Kelly after eight innings and 102 pitches, and in the process he woke up the visiting dugout. The Giants scored four runs off two Diamondbacks relievers in the ninth, another in the 10th, and walked away with a historic 5-4 victory.
They overcame a four-run deficit in the ninth to win for the first time since 1993. You have to go all the way back to 1941 to find the last time this franchise was getting shut out by at least four runs in the ninth and still won a game.
"We had no business winning that game, really," Kris Bryant said. "I've been a part of a few teams that really do well late in a game with their backs against a wall and this team definitely has it, and it's fun to contribute to such a good win."
Bryant drove in the game-winning run in the 10th and got the winning rally started in the ninth with a hard leadoff double off Taylor Clarke. It was not a matchup he was expecting. Kelly allowed just three hits and cruised through the eighth inning, and as Bryant stood in center field in the bottom of the inning, he was already thinking about how he might try and figure Kelly out in the ninth. He didn't have to.
Lovullo turned to Clarke, who gave up three rockets and didn't record an out. That brought Tyler Clippard into the game, and the Giants kept pressing. Clippard did get a couple of big outs, but the bases were loaded as LaMonte Wade Jr. stepped in.
Wade has not had a good week at the plate, and he saw just 10 pitches while going hitless in four at-bats against Kelly. But in one of the biggest spots of his career thus far, he was at his grinding best.
Wade took two close pitches with two strikes and then lined a single to right, tying the game.
"You treat it as if it's 0-0 and go out there and really focus on your plan," he said. "I've been doing a poor job of that lately and swinging at bad pitches. It's encouraging that I was able to swing at a good pitch and do something with it."
When Kapler printed that lineup out in the morning, he had almost too many good options. Mike Yastrzemski, Steven Duggar and Austin Slater were among the regulars on the bench. A red-hot Donovan Solano batted sixth, and Belt, in his first game off the IL, was down further than usual.
But at the top, Kapler stuck with Wade Jr. The recent at-bats had not been up to his usual standard, but he showed in the ninth that he has a short memory and an ability to find a quick fix.
"It takes a fighter to still have the stamina at the end of a game, a long one -- and at the end of some struggle -- to really hang in there and stay with your approach," Kapler said. "And that's what LaMonte did."