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‘Definitely felt like I had more in the tank’: Kapler’s decision to pull Gausman backfires

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

LOS ANGELES — Kevin Gausman was Kevin Gasman. Until he apparently was Kevin Glassman, the Giants not wanting him to break.

The best start of the Giants’ season no longer belongs to Johnny Cueto, who no-hit the Dodgers through five innings Saturday, but to the heat-throwing Gausman, whose very last pitch was his fastest, 99.3 mph to Cody Bellinger, who fought the four-seamer for the third Dodgers base hit.

It was pitch No. 80 for a rolling Gausman, who had gone 6 1/3 excellent innings and did not walk a batter while striking out six in a game the Giants led, 2-0. The first sign of trouble brought Gabe Kapler, who brought Tyler Rogers, a move that would backfire and result in a 6-2 loss at Dodger Stadium on Sunday that ends the series with a thud.

“It was just a hot day, seventh time up, third time against the toughest part of the order,” said Kapler over Zoom, explaining why Gausman was pulled against No. 4 hitter Justin Turner, who would score on AJ Pollock’s home run off Rogers a few batters later. “He had done a tremendous job. He had carried his stuff into that inning. He had carried his location into that inning.”

Gausman would not dispute that account. The free-agent pickup, whose fastball averaged 97 mph and whose splitter and slider kept the Dodgers honest, was open about wanting to continue.

Kapler said he always wants pitchers to feel as if they can keep going. Gausman nearly touching triple digits with his last pitch, though, has a particularly strong argument.

“Definitely felt like I had more in the tank. My limit is not 80 pitches,” said the 29-year-old, who’s on a one-year deal. “But it’s Kap’s job to make those decisions — that’s his job description. … Obviously I thought I pitched well enough to warrant getting a couple more guys out, but it’s trying to win a series and it was a hot day.”

What makes the Giants manager’s job more difficult is thinking longer term than one game, and Kapler referenced wanting Gausman to be “at his best for multiple outings,” not just Sunday’s. Yet, he is built up more, having thrown 83 pitches his last time out.

This would qualify as a curiosity and not require a defense from Kapler if his move worked out. Instead, Rogers failed after throwing two solid innings Saturday, when he had induced Pollock to fly out.

The righty batter now had a better look the second time around at Rogers, the submariner who has had a few blowups in the early going.

His slider to Pollock “backed up a little on me,” Rogers said, and backed the Giants up by three runs, relinquishing a lead they wouldn’t see again. New hitters to Rogers often appear puzzled and take poor cuts, and the question will be whether his stuff can withstand scrutiny.

Rogers, whose ERA is now at 11.88, believed he just didn’t execute a pitch. Kapler believed he just didn’t execute a pitch. The manager did not want to extrapolate and did not want to hold a third difficult outing this year against him.

“I still think he’s going to be an excellent major leaguer,” Kapler said of the 29-year-old, who debuted at the end of last season. “And I’m going to stand right behind him and give him another opportunity to perform in a high-leverage situation.”

Gausman would like the same opportunities to perform later in games, and he has a strong case.


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