There was only one coach at Gabe Kapler's introductory press conference in November. The Giants already had decided to clean house and let Kapler hire a completely new staff, but when Kapler met with Ron Wotus, he knew he needed to be the fourth consecutive Giants manager to have Wotus on his staff.
Kapler kept Wotus as his third base coach, and as the new manager went through a contentious press conference, Wotus sat in the third row and took in the scene. Nine months later, Wotus was again there for Kapler.
The Giants had to hold on by their fingernails in the ninth inning Saturday, but when Cody Bellinger flied out to deep left, Kapler had his first win as a Giant. The scoreboard at Dodger Stadium read 5-4, but Kapler didn't wait around to stare at it. He went straight into the clubhouse and watched video of some defensive plays before entering the coaches room. That's where Wotus was waiting with the rest of a 13-person staff.
"Ron Wotus opened up a nice bottle of wine and prepared a nice toast for the coaching staff," Kapler said.
Wotus gave a short speech. Perhaps at some point he mentioned "torture," one of the defining characteristics of the three-title run in San Francisco. As Kapler met with reporters a few minutes later, he was asked if he knew about the 300 or so nailbiting wins during the Bruce Bochy era, and whether his heart could handle the same. He smiled.
"Ask me after the 300th," he said. "We'll see."
The Giants were happy on this day just to escape with a first.
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Kapler had to sweat it out, despite pushing all the right buttons to get the Giants to the eighth with a 5-1 lead. Donovan Solano made a crucial error at third and Corey Seager's two-run single made it 5-3. Kapler had all three of his late-inning relievers lined up for the final six outs, but neither Tony Watson nor Tyler Rogers was particularly sharp.
That left the ninth to Trevor Gott, the hard-throwing righty who was a closer in college and the minors, but had just one previous big league save. He entered and immediately gave up a Will Smith blast that nearly decapitated a cardboard cutout in the left field seats. Gotts recovered, though, getting Max Muncy, Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger to guarantee Kapler's first handshake/elbow bump line.
"I thought our bullpen did a nice job of holding it together under some tough conditions," Kapler said. "In particular, Gotter did a nice job."
Before those final two innings, it was relatively straightforward, and Kapler got huge contributions from two inexperienced relievers. Caleb Baragar made his MLB debut and faced Muncy, Betts, Bellinger, Justin Turner and Corey Seager. He got six total outs and recorded his first career win.
"The moment was not too big for him, and that's something our player development staff had pounded with us," Kapler said.
Kapler admitted it was easier to throw Baragar in that spot because the Dodgers have not seen him before. They have seen Shaun Anderson, but he struck out three in the seventh, showing a nasty slider and 97-mph fastball.
It got hairy after that, but that tends to be the case with a Giants-Dodgers game. Kapler has seen it from the other side. On this day, he got to retreat to the visiting clubhouse for a surprise toast. The celebration didn't last long, though.
"I'm already thinking about getting back to the hotel, putting some lineups together, wondering if some of our guys can go back to back, what's our bullpen situation going to look like," Kapler said. "One of my personal challenges is just learning how to soak in the wins a little better and enjoy this."
The hope, for the Giants, is that he gets plenty of practice.