The Giants’ inning with hell started with faith in a starter, who then may have lost some faith in the coaches, continued with misplays and finished with frustration, Gabe Kapler watching one play five times to discern what should have happened.
Start from the top, or rather the bottom of the sixth, which began with the Giants comfortably ahead, 4-1, and Johnny Cueto cruising. He was facing the top of the lineup for a third time — which he has said he wants to do — and Kapler felt “he earned” that chance to continue on, just 79 pitches deep.
Charlie Blackmon swatted a Cueto offering to shortstop, where there wasn’t a shortstop. Brandon Crawford was shifted to the other side against the lefty, and instead it went for a single.
“I told Crawford it’s not his fault,” Cueto said Monday over Zoom through translator Erwin Higueros after the 7-6 loss to the Rockies at Coors Field. “It’s the fault of the coaches that make the shifts, but that’s the game.”
Kapler said he and the staff, after every game, go back and watch the breakdown, seeing the trends and what they did right and wrong in defensive aligning.
Cueto might have forgotten about the Blackmon hit if he escaped, but Kapler left him in to pitch to Nolan Arenado, who turned on a fastball and brought the Rockies within one.
“We said from the beginning: If pitchers are efficient and effective, we’re going to give them a chance to have a little leash and give us every reason to leave them in there,” said Kapler, whose Giants have been careful with pitch counts early on. “We’re not going to take dominant pitchers out of the game.”
Cueto no longer dominant, Kapler felt comfortable going to Wandy Peralta, who has been solid this year and particularly effective against lefties, which Colorado had coming up. It worked to start, Daniel Murphy grounding out, and Ryan McMahon followed with a long drive to right-center, where Alex Dickerson was playing.
Kapler explained before the game he wanted speedy Steven Duggar to flip sides because of the spaciousness in left at Coors, tapping Dickerson for a position he had played once in the majors; in camp he played the position “a few times, not a ton.” Dickerson emphasized that wherever he is, “Maybe I don’t cover all the ground but I generally catch everything.”
He did not catch McMahon’s fly ball, which instead went for a triple.
“I bet Dick makes that play 19 out of 20 times,” Kapler said, to which Dickerson agreed.
A couple singles later, the game was tied at 4. And then there was a “jailbreak,” in Kapler’s words.
With two outs and runners on first and second, David Dahl pulled a ground ball that eluded the shift on the right side, just out of Donovan Solano’s range, rolling to Dickerson. Dickerson, again in an unfamiliar spot, fielded the ball and saw commotion all around him.
“There were a lot of moving parts to the play,” said Dickerson, who also homered. “Visually there was a lot going on. I haven’t played a ton of right, so part of that is just getting a little more comfortable with that movement, and I think something caught my eye that put me off just enough to where I sailed the throw when it should just been a lob play to second base. Just sped myself up.”
The ball went past second and toward foul ground behind third and home, where Peralta was backing up. As the Rockies kept circling the bases, catcher Chadwick Tromp dashed for the ball and abandoned home plate. Both runners on base scored, Dahl wound up on second, and Kapler wound up with his eyes glued to the replays.
“In a perfect world, maybe Trompy stays home, he reads that he’s got some backup from the pitcher,” said Kapler, who added Tromp was playing against a righty because of his hot bat (which got hotter with a homer). “But I watched that play right after the game — I watched it five times. I’m not sure if everyone does everything right, Trompy stays home, Peralta picks up the baseball, makes a perfect throw to the plate, that we record the out. I think that was just one of those chaotic jailbreak plays.”
Kapler said someone — whether himself, catching coach Craig Albernaz, quality control coach Nick Ortiz, bench coach Kai Correa or someone else — would talk with Tromp about the play. The Giants have had issues early with their inexperienced catchers on defense, Tyler Heineman botching a rundown play Saturday.
This Giants regime knows it does not have the most talented team and strives to be the cleanest. Their 13 errors in 11 games leads the NL and does not take into account the mental errors, which have been numerous.
Kapler said he and other coaches will pore over video and ask themselves, “What could we have done differently?” The answer will be a lot.