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Rookie trio leads way as Giants get back in playoff position

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Somewhere along the line, the Giants hit pause on the rebuild button. 

Oh, they're still as committed as ever to player development, and cognizant of the fact that, long-term, their only hope of competing consistently is to bring young talent to the big leagues. But in late August, when this season could have gone in two different directions, the players dictated an unexpected one. 

There would be no lineups filled with rookies taking their lumps. Jaylin Davis is not here. Heliot Ramos won't make a cameo. The experimentation has slowed. 

The Giants turned their season around in late August and did so behind their familiar veterans and older newcomers like Wilmer Flores, Donovan Solano and Darin Ruf. The expanded postseason allows them to chase a dream, and there's no time for rookies to just get their feet wet. 

The Giants haven't thrown as many into the fire as you might expect from a team coming off three years like the last three, but Mauricio Dubon, Logan Webb and Caleb Baragar are three who have had their highs and lows and built toward the future. All three were front and center Wednesday, and they led the charge in a 7-2 win over the Colorado Rockies that got the Giants back over .500 and a game ahead of the Philadelphia Phillies and Milwaukee Brewers for the final playoff spot. 

Dubon hit a three-run homer to break a tie in the fifth, and Baragar and Webb made sure it was competitive even that far. They combined for 19 outs, with Baragar making the first start of his career and Webb following the opener with his best outing in weeks. 

 

"The thing that Logan, Mauricio and Caleb have in common is their competitiveness and their preparation," manager Gabe Kapler said. "Maybe that makes up for some of the inexperience, that preparation and that drive. Part of their success is stemming from that, I'm sure."

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Baragar started it off, and did so a day after he found out he would be serving as an opener. Andrew Bailey texted him Tuesday night at 11 to bring up the possibility, and the staff then put in a plan to make sure Baragar was comfortable. He was told to warm up in the bullpen as usual, and he ran in from center field for the top of the first inning.

Baragar pitched a scoreless first and gave way to Webb after allowing a leadoff double in the second. For Webb, this was something new, but definitely not something he would shy away from. Two weeks ago in San Diego, Webb thought he would come out of the bullpen during a Sunday doubleheader. He was fired up about it, but ended up starting when Kevin Gausman needed an MRI. 

This time, Webb did come racing out of the 'pen, and he threw 5 1/3 solid innings to get a lead to the bullpen. The outing was Webb's sharpest in a month and got him his first win since August 21. He said he went into it "open minded and excited."

"I can't remember the last time I came in with somebody on base, but it was kind of cool," Webb said. "I felt it was fun out there. I don't know if that changed necessarily the game plan or the mindset, but it was my first time experiencing that. It was cool. I was happy I was able to do that today. 

"It was kind of getting out of my head and just going out there and competing like I know I can. The last five or six (outings) I was thinking too much. Today I just went out there and I just wanted to compete and leave it all out there, and I think that was a big reason I was able to do what I did."

Dubon long ago settled in as a center fielder, and he joked Wednesday that he doesn't even carry his infield glove around anymore. He entered the night hitting .285, but he didn't have much to show for a lot of his barrels. With two on in the fifth, he got a low slider and drove it to left. There was no doubt off the bat where the ball would end up, and Dubon called it the biggest homer of his career. Kapler said the dugout exploded. 

 

"It was fun. It was fun," Dubon said. "They've been giving me a hard time about hitting the ball to the warning track. Finally coming through in a big situation, it felt pretty good."

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The win got the Giants to 28-27 and allowed them to control their own destiny. The road ahead isn't easy, with one more against the Rockies before a four-game series with the Padres, and they'll lean on all the experience in the dugout. But the young guys are ready to chip in, too. 

"Embrace it, know that you've done it before, and be excited about it," Webb said. "That's something the veteran guys really preach and we try to take that every time we go out there."