As the final weekend of the 2020 regular season approached and the Giants started preparing for a Friday night doubleheader with the San Diego Padres, manager Gabe Kapler was asked if he had any trepidation given the fact that his team had such an awful record in those seven-inning games.
Kapler said he wasn't concerned, pointing out that while the Giants were 0-4 at the time, they had faced Clayton Kershaw in one of those games, Mike Clevinger in another, and a steady stream of good Dodgers relievers in a third game. Kapler didn't think there was anything to his team's struggles over seven innings, and he turned out to be right ... kind of.
The Giants ended up with a split of their third and final doubleheader day, but they would have gotten a sweep -- and later a playoff spot -- had Sam Coonrod held on. When you look back at that Friday, it's clear that playing a pair of seven-inning games was actually a break for the Giants.
The first game was a 5-4 win, but the Padres scored three runs in the seventh and might have fully gotten to a Giants bullpen that had already used Tony Watson had the game gone on longer. In the nightcap, the Giants ran out of pitching. Coonrod was left in to face Trent Grisham and ... well, let's not relive that.
The Giants ended up going 1-5 in seven-inning games, but they faced particularly tough pitching. Fans would probably remember seven-inning games more fondly if, say, that series with the Seattle Mariners that was moved to Oracle Park had been played on one day.
The seven-inning doubleheaders were an addition for the 60-game season, like the universal DH, which worked out poorly for the Giants, and the expanded rosters, which worked out extremely well. Everything is expected to go back to normal in 2021, but perhaps that's not what the Giants should want.
They expect to add pitching in the offseason, but they still will be light on quality arms compared to teams like the Dodgers and Padres, and those shortened games would help the Giants close the gap. Offensively, the 2020 Giants proved to be resilient, but they actually scored their most runs in the sixth (46 runs) and seventh (45) innings. They scored 44 total runs across the eighth and ninth, so shortened games wouldn't really make an impact there.
It's unclear what MLB will do moving forward, but the seven-inning games have plenty of positives. Those days zipped along, with short breaks between the games, and teams came out feeling much fresher. If you thought that Friday night loss was bad over seven innings, imagine if the Giants had to cover 18 total innings that day and then come back the next day in another must-win game? There's a reason some players came out in favor of the rule change.
"A doubleheader in the big leagues of two nine-inning games, with the chance of going into extra innings in any of them, it's tough," right-hander Kevin Gausman said after the first doubleheader. "Hopefully your starters can pitch well enough that you can give your bullpen a break. I really hope that at the end of the season, Major League Baseball thinks about doing it. I just think it's more exciting. It adds a different element to it. I think it just speeds up the whole process of having two games in one day."