When he was hired by the Giants after the 2019 season, Gabe Kapler spent a few weeks piling up frequent flier miles, visiting as many of his new players as he could. He wanted to meet for lunches and dinners and long conversations at coffee shops, preferring to have individual conversations about the future rather than address big groups in spring training.
That's Kapler's style, and as he deals with his team's first real stumble of the 2021 season, that's what Kapler will turn to.
The Giants have lost four in a row for the first time all year, including both games against the rival Los Angeles Dodgers and a 5-3 loss on Thursday that snapped their nine-game winning streak against the last-place Arizona Diamondbacks. Their lead over the Dodgers was 4 1/2 games after Saturday night's walk-off win, but it's down to half a game.
Johnny Cueto tried to pitch through a cold on Thursday and got roughed up, but there's a greater culprit over this skid. The lineup is 0-for-23 with runners in scoring position on this trip and 1-for-27 in the four losses.
"We're not having our best at-bats and right now we're not able to get that one big punch in the most important moments," Kapler said. "Clubs go through stretches like this, good offensive clubs go through stretches like this. There needs to be a sense or urgency when we're not winning baseball games and when we're not getting the big hit and we're not making enough pitches, and we have that urgency. We're disappointed after a game like tonight. It was not our best baseball from any angle, but at the same time I think we need to keep it in perspective. There are really good baseball teams that go through rough stretches at the plate."
Asked how he would handle this, Kapler said his preference is to focus on individual conversations. He wants to remind his slumping players of how good they are and provide reassurance.
"I don't think right now is the right time for any sort of 'rally the troops' style speech and frankly it's just not who we are as a staff," Kapler said. "We'll have individual conversations. At the right time, if we need to address the group, we will. Right now I think it's staying measured, and that's the best way to get back on track."
This is a good time for a little perspective. The Giants still rank third in the NL in runs and second in OPS. They are tied for the MLB lead in homers. Oh, they also still have the best record in all of baseball.
But this is their first prolonged cold stretch of the year. They had a three-game losing streak against the Dodgers earlier, but that one could partially be chalked up to facing three of the best starting pitchers in the NL. This four-game losing streak started against Cole Irvin, and after matchups with Trevor Bauer and Walker Buehler, the Giants had few answers for Merrill Kelly on Thursday.
As they did in Los Angeles, they threatened in the ninth but came up short. With the tying run on first and nobody out, Donovan Solano hit into a double play. Darin Ruf struck out to end the game.
"I don't think we've swung the bats like we're capable of these last four games," Buster Posey said. "Still have been in the games, so that's always a positive, but with our offensive capability I think we expect a little bit more than these last four games."