SAN FRANCISCO -- Gabe Kapler sat down in the dugout at Oracle Park on Friday afternoon, looked out at reporters, and -- as he always does -- asked where everyone wanted to start. The Giants manager had injury updates, he had two players dealing with COVID-19 (including one stuck across the country), and he had a rotation that was undergoing a dramatic change.
But the first question to Kapler was about "how big" that night's game against the Los Angeles Dodgers was. Kapler paused, took a deep breath, and went into a well-worn monologue.
For two seasons, he has tried to focus on the fact that every game is an important game. The Giants are in this position, surprising the baseball world, in large part because they grind the same way every single day.
"We just don't get too high or too low," Kapler recently said.
That steady mindset is used to make lineups, too, which is part of the reason why Kapler -- in a series with big NL West implications -- got his two best players some rest over the weekend. Brandon Crawford sat out Saturday's game, and Buster Posey was off Sunday.
Kapler understood why the decisions stood out, but he sticks to his process and avoids outside noise. The staff -- and the players -- felt this was the best way to handle this stretch of the schedule.
"We're going to lean heavily on Brandon, Buster and the rest of our veteran players to stay steady through the rest of the season, and we're also going to look for times to rest them, which is why Buster isn't in the lineup today," Kapler said Sunday afternoon. "I can see why you would want to have Buster in the lineup all three games against the Dodgers. We've got a tough road series in Colorado coming up, and we want Buster to play a couple of those games, too."
Posey and Crawford are both 34 and regularly sit down with Kapler to map out scheduling a week or more in advance. That was particularly important with the Giants in a stretch of 16 games in 16 days, which included a trip to the East Coast, a brutal week at home against the Brewers and Dodgers, and this upcoming trip to Coors Field.
Posey is in position to start 10 of the 16 games in this stretch, with some of the missed time being due to knee irritation last week, and the other games being rest days. He'll start Monday afternoon in Denver and likely Tuesday night before receiving 48 hours off to rest his body. The Giants knew mapping it out this way would cost Posey a game against the Dodgers, but Kapler felt it was best for his catcher's health and also knew it could allow the Giants to get one extra start out of Posey during this stretch.
Crawford has started 11 of the first 13 games of the 16-game stretch, including seven straight until Saturday night's game off. Last week, Kapler and Crawford sat down and looked at a schedule that had four lefty opponents in six games. They picked Saturday night as the most reasonable game for the shortstop to catch a breather.
"I just don't think it's fair to run him into the ground," Kapler said. "We've had a stretch of left-handed pitchers and we had this one left-handed pitcher [Julio Urias] right in the middle that kind of broke up the run, and so Craw got the day off. Now I think we've got a good chance to get Craw through our off day [on Thursday].
"We'll see how it goes."
This is a week-by-week situation, but also day-by-day at times. Posey's knee pain caused him to come out in the middle of a game on the last road trip, and neither player will ever fully divulge all the aches and pains that are bothering them every morning late in this season.
Kapler won't, either, saying only that nobody is 100 percent this time of year. He would like to keep his stars as close to that mark as he can, and if that means they skip some meaningful games, that's just the way it is. The Giants have had remarkable success with this system all year. They're not about to panic now.
"It's tough to predict every twist and turn for the rest of the season," Kapler said. "What I'll say is that, like we do with our pitchers, we're going to read how their bodies are reacting. I talk to Craw frequently about what our upcoming schedule looks like. I talk to Buster regularly about what our upcoming schedule looks like. We're doing this together, we've done it collaboratively all year.
"We'll listen to see how they're feeling, and we'll find the right spots to get them off their feet."
One of Kapler's main goals this season was to get Posey, Crawford and the rest of his veterans through the season healthy. If they can do it, the Giants will find a nice situation waiting for them.
As Posey and Crawford know well, the playoff schedule includes a lot of off days.