Alex Wood had just rolled up a double-play ball with a one-run lead, and was one out away from stranding a leadoff single at third base in the sixth, when Gabe Kapler strided out of his dugout.
Most times when Kapler visits the mound, he’s there to remove his pitcher. There is always, though, a small chance they remain in the game. This time, Kapler didn’t even make a full stop on the mound before turning back around to to the dugout, extending the appearance of his veteran left-hander one more hitter.
That hitter, Detroit catcher Eric Haase, promptly elevated a slider from Wood over the wall in left-center for a two-run shot to make it 3-1, as the Tigers beat the Giants 3-2 on Wednesday afternoon and Oracle Park to split a two-game set.
The swing knocked Wood out of the game and undoubtedly made Kapler rethink the idea of leaving him in. At 92 pitches and the third time through the order, it was a gamble that didn’t pay off.
Wood’s final line against the Tigers: 5-2/3 innings, seven hits, three earned runs and six strikeouts. He didn’t allow a run until the fourth inning when Tigers shortstop Javier Báez tripled on a line drive that right fielder LaMonte Wade Jr. couldn’t catch or keep in front of him – it rolled to the wall. Miguel Cabrera was next, lining a sacrifice fly to center field to tie the game at 1-1.
It’s been a few starts since Wood’s slider was working, and Wednesday it was about the best it’s been in quite some time. He recorded nine swings and misses with it and even the Haase home run shouldn’t be considered a bad pitch. On his outing, Wood said:
I felt good. I mean, these are just extremely frustrating. I felt really good, I thought it was the best my slider has been a long time – on the year. To have that happen at the end really sucked to be honest, so just really frustrating.”
Looking at the stats, Wood mentioned many of the one-run games have befallen the back end of the rotation, and that he, Alex Cobb and Anthony DeSclafani need to “step our shit up” and start recording stat lines that match up with how they’re actually feeling.
There wasn’t much early Giants offense against Tigers starter Rony Garcia. Entering the game, the young right-hander’s statistics were unimpressive; he’s dealt with ineffectiveness throughout the season. On this particular day, Garcia was the stopper, shutting down the San Francisco offense with a fastball-curveball mix.
On the inconsistent offense, Kapler noted:
Sometimes you have a big moment and we have an opportunity to break the game open and we don’t do it. Obviously, with all the confidence that we have in our hitters, we know that it’s in there. We just haven’t been able to string them together and sometimes it comes on the heels of a couple bloop hits. Sometimes it comes on the heels of some hard hit balls. And I just don’t feel the need to measure which ones sting more. You’d like to have more of those big hits no matter what.”
The only sign of life against Garcia was a first inning swing from third baseman Evan Longoria, a notable Tigers enemy throughout his 15-year career. He’s also been red-hot as of late, hitting .370 with two homers in his prior eight games.
Longoria stepped up and drove a 1-1 offering from Garcia over the right field wall for a solo blast. It’s rare to see a right-handed hitter casually flipped one out in that direction and Longoria did it with ease to put his club out to an early 1-0 lead, moving his career batting average over .300 against Detroit.
The Giants had a scoring chance in the third against Garcia, but left the bases loaded when Brandon Belt drove a ball to left field that fell roughly ten feet shy of being a grand slam. Instead, it was a rally-ruining flyout. They loaded up the bases again in the seventh and Mike Yastrzemski knocked in a run by beating out what would’ve been an inning-ending double play. It put the Giants within a run at 3-2. They couldn’t capitalize after Longoria drew a walk to reload the bases, as Austin Slater struck out swinging to end the inning.
Slater pinch-hit for Joc Pederson in the sixth inning, an unsurprising move considering San Francisco’s roster is designed to favor matchups. On whether Pederson being subbed out had any effect on the situation, Kapler said:
We have a lot of confidence in all of our players, Slater included. I think he’s come up with some of the bigger hits we’ve had all season. We pinch it early to try to get an advantage earlier in the game with the understanding that it’s possible that that spot comes back up. When it does come back up, we have a lot of confidence that the person that’s in that spot can also do some damage and get a big hit.”
Kapler’s lineup grew deeper on Wednesday as the Giants welcomed back Wade from the injured list, hitting in the leadoff spot and playing right field. He’s dealt with a left knee injury which has cost him a total of 61 games. The 28-year-old briefly appeared in eight games over the course of a week in early May and the Giants went 5-3 in the games he started.
Wade’s importance to the lineup is significant; San Francisco relied on him heavily for clutch hitting, especially late in ballgames with their backs against the wall. For a club that has played many close one-run and two-run affairs with minimal big innings over the past few weeks, it’s definitely a hearty addition against right-handed pitching.
The Giants have an off-day in San Francisco on Thursday before they square off in a three-game, weekend series against the Chicago White Sox at Oracle Park. It will be Tony La Russa’s first managerial appearance since 2011 when he was the skipper of the St. Louis Cardinals. Alex Cobb (3-3, 5.48 ERA) will toe the slab against Lance Lynn (1-1, 6.19 ERA). First pitch is 7:15 p.m.
Just a few days before the Giants square off against his former team, Yermin Mercedes was optioned to Triple-A Sacramento after Tuesday night’s win over the Tigers. The 29-year-old first baseman won’t get a chance to do damage against the White Sox, a club that he was more than excited to depart after spending roughly five seasons with them from 2018 to 2022.