It's easy to forget that Logan Webb still is just 24 years old. He has been pitching in the big leagues since 2019, so you would be forgiven if you thought he was 26 or 27 years old, further along in his development.
While Webb has established himself as one of the Giants' most reliable starters over the last three months, he still is learning valuable lessons with every game he pitches.
Webb's outing in the Giants' 5-0 win over the Atlanta Braves at Truist Park on Saturday night was another teaching moment, and manager Gabe Kapler was particularly pleased with what he saw from his young pitcher in the sixth inning.
With the Giants leading 2-0, reigning NL MVP Freddie Freeman led off with an infield single after beating out the throw from Tommy La Stella. The next batter, Austin Riley, grounded a ball to third baseman Wilmer Flores and it looked like a tailormade double play. Except Flores sailed the throw into right field. Freeman took third base, putting Webb in a tight spot.
Webb didn't panic, and he got a little help from the calming voice of Buster Posey, who paid a visit to the mound before Dansby Swanson dug in.
Swanson promptly popped out to second and Webb got Travis d'Arnaud to ground into an inning-ending double play. The Braves failed to score with runners at the corners and no one out.
"I think the way Logan picked up his teammates, and in the way he picked up Wilmer Flores, represented probably the most important moment of his development thus far," Kapler said after the game, when asked by The Mercury News' Kerry Crowley about Webb's performance in the sixth inning. "I think he sensed the opportunity to kind of step up for the group. We've talked a lot recently how when the defense isn't at its best, we're going to need other departments to step up. When the starting pitching is short, we're going to need the bullpen to cover innings. And when someone has to come out of the game, for instance in the case of Kris Bryant yesterday, we're going to need LaMonte Wade Jr. to step in and perform well if we're going to win a lot of baseball games going forward.
"I think Logan sensed that this was his opportunity to do that for the group. And as I mentioned, a really important piece for his development thus far and kind of another example of real unselfishness. He did stay poised and never for a moment got out of control in that game."
The Giants missed Posey's presence and feel for the game last year when he opted not to play during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. On Saturday, he showed exactly why he's so valuable to the franchise.
"[Posey] just came up to me and said 'Hey, don't even worry about the guy at third. Let's just think about the guy at first.' " Webb told reporters after the game. "It was almost like he told me to pretend there was no one on third base, just kind of go with how the inning was going and try to get a ground ball or a pop-up.
"Thankfully it worked out, but yeah, just him coming and saying 'Hey, don't worry about that. Just get this guy out.' "
Webb finished with seven shutout innings against the Braves on Saturday night, but after throwing 59 pitches through the first three innings, it looked like he might not make it more than five innings. A little luck, in the form of a three-pitch bottom of the fourth inning, helped Webb go as deep as he did.
"I think what happened was Logan had a different gear, a different intensity gear, a different focus and concentration gear," Kapler said. "And obviously, a quick inning like that is the result of some luck, right? You throw a strike, the ball gets put in play, you throw a strike, the ball gets put in play for a groundball double play. So you need some good fortune, but Logan gets the ball on the ground. I don't think it should surprise anyone for him to have quick innings from time to time, ground ball, ground ball, ground ball.
"What I will say is, I think Logan knows when he's not as efficient as he can be, I think he knows when he's not attacking the strike zone as much as he can. So one of the major keys to learn if a player is actually developing, is they are able to make their own adjustments, in-game, without any counsel, without anybody kind of letting them know. So I think in this particular case, I can't swear nobody had a conversation about it, I think he elevated his level of intensity on his own, improved his focus, got in the zone more and attacked. I think it's as simple as that."
Webb wasn't happy with how the third inning played out, despite not allowing the Braves to score. So the three-pitch fourth inning, the first by a Giants pitcher since Madison Bumgarner in 2010, restored his belief in himself.
"I was a little frustrated finishing that third inning," Webb said. "I got two outs and then I threw too many pitches. I started off the next inning hitting the guy, and all of a sudden, it's two pitches later. I'm happy those guys swung at those two pitches, but that was huge. That gave me a little confidence, gave everyone a little confidence at that point, that I could throw two, possibly three more innings after that."
Webb lowered his season ERA to 2.65, and has allowed two or fewer runs in 13 straight starts. With Kevin Gausman working to regain his form and Anthony DeSclafani battling nagging injuries, the Giants are counting on Webb to continue to develop at a rapid pace.
With the way things are playing out, Webb might get the ball in Game 1 or Game 2 of the National League Division Series, assuming the Giants avoid the Wild Card Game. And if he keeps pitching like this for the next five weeks, that could be a problem for whoever San Francisco draws in the opening round.