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How Giants’ baserunning gambit quietly worked while Nationals’ flopped

Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

There are a million things to analyze in games, and Gabe Kapler will call out a bad swing even when it results in a hit; will call out a misjudgment even when it doesn’t result in a technical misplay.

Victor Robles messed up, and it cost the Nationals. LaMonte Wade Jr.’s gambit worked, so the Giants can celebrate.

After seven scoreless innings in Saturday’s second half of a doubleheader, the Giants and Nationals played the quintessentially 2021 game, with a ghost runner on second in an extra eighth inning, and the game turned on the baserunning that did work.

Wade’s gapped single — just the second of the day for a Giants offense that is limping — knocked in Curt Casali, and a wild pitch sent Wade to second. Donovan Solano hit a ground ball in the shortstop hole — but one that Wade felt was deeper.

“I thought maybe Trea [Turner] had to go in the hole to get that ball a little more — apparently he did not,” Wade said after the 2-1 Giants win. “Probably not the best play to make, but I made it [safely].”

Wade laughed, because he could laugh and should laugh after his bat has been hitting in a lineup that hasn’t. He made it, Turner throwing a bit high and Wade sliding beneath the tag, then scoring the inning’s second run, off Wilmer Flores’ single, which would prove to be the deciding one. It must have been more difficult for Robles to smile.

The young Nationals outfielder with a sky-high ceiling was hit by a Caleb Baragar slider in the eighth, after Starlin Castro’s leadoff, RBI double drew Washington within one run. Josh Bell lofted a long fly to center that should have either advanced Robles safely, or more likely, should have left him at first. What happened instead was “a pretty big break,” Kapler acknowledged.

The throw came in to Solano up the baseline between first and second, and Robles veered to avoid the second baseman. But he also kept running, and then slid far too late. Solano caught the throw and began running toward Robles, who was past the bag and then running to third, and Solano tagged him out for the double play.

After Turner popped out, Baragar had escaped.

“Thankfully they had the mishap on the bases,” said Baragar, who was making his first appearance off the IL. “That made it a lot easier.”

It was Baragar’s first career save in his 46th game, having become a trusted member of the bullpen over the past two years. He got a beer shower after the win and said he’ll secure the ball from the last out.

“It’s one of those cool milestones,” the 27-year-old said. “It would have been nice if I would’ve punched out the side for my first career save, but I guess that’s how baseball works.”

Brandon Crawford cramped up between games and was a late scratch. He did pinch-hit, but the Giants will be careful with the valuable shortstop. He and Kapler will talk before Sunday’s finale in Washington to see how he feels.

“We might just rest him anyhow and get him ready for the homestand,” Kapler said over Zoom.

Kapler said Johnny Cueto would start Sunday.


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