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On night of standouts, Tauchman's catch saves Giants

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The box score says Buster Posey hit a key three-run homer, the 10th of his season. It says LaMonte Wade Jr. was an emergency first baseman and reached base four times, including an RBI single that gave the Giants the lead in the 10th inning. It says Evan Longoria came off the bench for a huge two-run double off Kenley Jansen.

The box score says the Giants beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 8-5, but it doesn’t quite tell you why.

That’s because the box score says Mike Tauchman went 0-for-2, lowering his average to .204. But ... he also saved the game for the Giants with the catch of the year, or even several years. 

Tauchman reached above an eight-foot wall in left field to rob Albert Pujols of career homer No. 669 with two outs in the ninth inning. He pulled the walk-off back onto the field, finally showing it to a stunned crowd and two surprised dugouts. Given a second chance, the Giants scored three runs off Jansen in the 10th and finally got their first win of the year against the rival Dodgers. 

"That's probably the most fun play you can make as an outfielder," Tauchman said of his catch. "You practice it as a little kid over the chain-link fence in the backyard. The opportunities are so few and far between that when you get a chance at one it's pretty cool."

Tauchman said the catch certainly ranks in his personal top two, comparing it to a catch he made against the Baltimore Orioles in 2019. But that one came in the fourth inning, not the ninth. And the New York Yankees perennially beat up on the Orioles, while the Giants had lost four straight to the Dodgers this season, and were threatening to drop this one in one of the harshest ways possible. 

 

Through eight innings, the story was Posey hitting a three-run shot off Blake Treinen that was the 150th of his career and seemed to be the game-winner. But Tyler Rogers -- who had allowed three runs all season -- couldn't hold on. He served up a game-tying shot to Austin Barnes, and before the crowd could calm down, Pujols lined one out to a similar spot. 

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The visiting dugout at Dodger Stadium looks straight out at left field, and as Gabe Kapler watched the ball fly, he felt a sense of dread. He heard the crowd rise and watched as Pujols reacted as if he had gotten enough of it.

"It kind of felt like it was going to be a home run, but then you saw Tauchman get a really good beat on it and have nice timing up against the wall," Kapler said. "At that point we thought there might be a play on it. We weren't even sure if he came down with it until he got up off the ground. It was a phenomenal play."

Kapler and a veteran group of Giants have tried to go day-by-day this season, never making any game too big. Still, the catch was a momentum-shifter, and not just for Friday night. 

The Dodgers were a couple of inches away from having stunned the Giants, handing them a loss on a night when Posey hit a huge homer. They would have extended their streak over the Giants to five wins by getting to Rogers, one of the best relievers in the NL, and taking advantage of a misplay by Mauricio Dubon, who has been elite defensively through two months. 

On the other side, the Giants were a couple of inches away from spending a night wondering what they possibly had to do to get a win against the Dodgers. A loss would have wasted a lot of good individual efforts. The Giants would have had to watch Pujols, a surprising pickup, be the hero. Everything in this rivalry would have been tilted in one direction. 

Instead, Tauchman allowed the Giants to finally celebrate a win over the reigning World Series champs. He allowed them to feel resilient as they left the ballpark, to feel that what they're doing this season is sustainable.

"I thought it was well-fought on both sides," Kapler said. "Nobody gave up. I thought our team showed quite a bit of resilience there. After you give up the three-run home run to Barnes and Dubon is unable to secure that ball, you can certainly feel the air come out of the dugout.

 

"At that point we're looking at each other saying, 'Okay, let's go. Let's continue to grind.' I think that's what makes me proudest in tonight's game is how we never stopped fighting all the way to the end."

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