SAN FRANCISCO — After speaking to reporters late Sunday afternoon, Patrick Bailey reached into his locker and brought out a nice glass of red wine. An hour earlier, the rookie catcher had blocked too much of his club from getting to something much tougher.
Bailey’s walk-off homer with two outs in the tenth inning gave the Giants a 3-2 victory over the Texas Rangers, preventing a sweep by Bruce Bochy and keeping some on his team from having to face tougher questions. The rescue snapped a four-game losing streak for the Giants and it wasn’t long after that Gabe Kapler made the agonizing decision to end a weekend full of interesting things.
Kapler had pulled Logan Webb after 8 2/3 innings, only to watch his All-Star closer give up the tying run on a single and then dismiss the flaring walk-off home run in the top of the 10th. The Giants had their last lead when Bailey pulled his hands and grabbed a Will Smith fastball over the wall in left field.
It was the perfect ballpark in the perfect location for a 24-year-old who has solved a lot of problems for the Giants since his appearance in May. Bailey hasn’t had much success against broken balls while hitting from the right side this season and Smith has thrown the slider 50 percent of the time.
“Until I got to two-strokes, I was just looking for the heater,” Bailey said.
Bailey watched the fastball go toward the benches on the left, fearing it would hit the chevron section running along the rest of the wall. When the ball was gone, the pitch exploded and the dugout exhaled.
For much of the afternoon, the Giants have been playing a familiar tune. Two months and four days after a 1-0 shutout, the first of his career, Webb looked destined for another goal – and it was necessary. The running back lineup totaled 17 strikeouts and continued to miss chances, but Webb only needed 96 runs to play through eight innings shutouts.
Kapler initially stuck Webb, prompting cheers from 35,000 at Oracle Park. When it came out two times later, the sound was strange. At first, there were boos at Kapler’s decision, but they quickly drowned out Webb’s cheers.
Kabler knew this was going to be an emotional weekend at Oracle Park, with Bochy returning to confront the man who took charge when he walked away. The Rangers won their first two games and Kapler faced questions about two notable decisions. On Friday, he dispatched newcomer Mark Mathias to hit Brandon Crawford in the uppercut. One day later, he stuck with Austin Slater against a proper reliever and watched Slater bounce back in a crushing double play.
These employees have tried to take emotion out of the decision-making process, and that was on full display with the toughest call of the weekend. Kappler said choosing between Webb and Camilo Duval for 27th place was “a huge challenge”.
“I will always trust Logan in this situation and I trust Duvall the same way,” he said. As perceptible as he was ‘taking the ball from Logan,’ the way I would frame it—very honestly—is that I gave the ball to Duvall. I had a lot of confidence that Duvall would come in and get a swing and a miss, or a ground ball. Softer like the one he got.”
With a fast runner on second, Duval made it to the hole quickly, but JB Martinez raced to tie the game when Ezequiel Duran beat Crawford’s putt for first. In the dugout, Webb sat with a distant look on his face, but later said he understood the decision.
“He goes out and gives the ball to the best in the game. I’m not going to complain about that,” Webb said. “As a competitor, you always want to stay there, right? But I also understood. Duval is very good too and we trust each other. Everyone trusts each other here.
“I have 100 percent confidence in Duvall. It was a strange play that happened, but at the end of the day, we won the game. That’s all that matters.”
The decision was great, and even if the Giants lose, it’s probably the right one. As good as Webb has been, Doval is as solid a choice as any in baseball if you only need one, and he’s been nearly flawless with the game on the line this season.
But sometimes you make a good call and get a bad score, and when your team is playing like the baseball the Giants have played in recent weeks, every move is amplified. The Giants were close to scoring one run for the ninth time in their last 29 games, and these are the times when decision-making becomes especially uncomfortable for the officials.
Instead, Bailey offered a reprieve.
The road wasn’t any easier, with the Tampa Bay Rays arriving on Monday and the Giants heading to Atlanta and Philadelphia next, but their rookie catcher allowed them to get a good night’s sleep on Sunday, and it made some history. Blake Sabol stunned the St. Louis Cardinals in a similar spot earlier in the season, and Bailey and Sabol became the first group of rookie catchers to catch teammates on the same team in the same season.
Even Kapler admitted that Homer had some extra significance, though he added that the Giants had to get up on Monday and brace for rays either way. The Giants try to view every game as the same, but given the state it is in, given what the lineup did in 9 2/3 innings, and given what happened in the ninth… that was one swing.
“It would have been a very heartbreaking loss if it had continued in this direction,” Kabler said.
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