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Why the Giants stuck with Sam Coonrod



Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Giants ran out of pitchers and of steam. But not of apparent (or relative) trust in Sam Coonrod, which cost them in yet another back-breaker that adds to a ledger that should bring them to a chiropractor’s office.

Gabe Kapler was blunt in the moments afterward, speaking generally but not glossing over the fact that after 25 innings played in two days amid a stretch of 13 contests in 12 days, a club that so values choices was out of those, too.

“We used our [bullpen] options, put it like that,” Kapler said after Trent Grisham turned a Giants victory into defeat, the “home” Padres walking off at Oracle Park, 6-5, on a three-run bomb that Coonrod surrendered. “… Our guys are a little beat up down there, we’ve asked a lot of them. We’ve pushed them really hard. They’ve done everything they can to answer the bell.”

In the first half of Friday’s doubleheader, Kapler had to ask Tony Watson, with whom the team has been especially careful, to pitch in a third game in four days, and Watson was bruised but not beaten. The nightcap, in which the Giants got three innings from Jeff Samardzija, showcased the relievers’ guts until it turned into a gut-punch.

Caleb Baragar’s scoreless inning came on his third day of work in a row and sixth appearance in 10 days. It was three straight for Sam Selman, too, while three out of four for Jarlin Garcia. Shaun Anderson had gotten two outs. Kapler could have stuck with Selman, who had thrown just five pitches in the sixth, but he was taxed. The only unused options were Tyler Rogers (who had thrown three straight and leads the majors in appearances), Trevor Cahill (three out of four days), Coonrod (who threw for a third time in four games) and Wandy Peralta, who was warmed up and relatively fresh, not having pitched since Monday.

Kapler went with the higher-octane, righty arm who has been his choice in later innings all year, while Peralta has been used in earlier innings.

With the Giants up two, Coonrod’s velocity was present as Tommy Pham reached on an infield single and Jason Castro struck out. But Coonrod has a tendency to unravel, and he walked Greg Garcia, which brought the winning run to the plate.

Grisham jumped on a changeup and sent it 375 feet over the Levi’s Landing wall, and the Giants went from on the verge to the playoffs to the prospect of falling out with two to play.

Coonrod declined comment to media after the crusher. Kapler said Peralta would have been ready for lefty Jake Cronenworth, two batters away, but he wasn’t going to pull Coonrod before that.

“[Peralta] was our length option today. Coonrod was our leverage option,” the manager said over Zoom, the Giants dropping to 29-29, a game up on the Phillies and Brewers, who both hold the tiebreakers. “Peralta hasn’t been a leverage option for us all year.”

Coonrod has been a curiosity all year, his stuff often overwhelming but his control too often disappearing.

“His key is getting in the zone and staying in the zone,” Kapler said of the 28-year-old, second-year righty. “It’s not his stuff. Never has been, never will be. He’s 97-100, 101 with a wipeout changeup. His key to being an elite major league reliever is just throwing a ton of strikes. That’s the thing that’s holding him back from being an elite reliever right now. Sam is well aware that that’s the key to success.”

If the Giants win out, they would make the postseason. If they slip up, the door is open for Philadelphia or Milwaukee to win a pair and steal the final playoff spot.

It’s a door that Coonrod couldn’t close.

“This sucked,” Kapler said. “It was a gut-punch loss and we will bounce back like we have all season long.”