Giants’ approach in big moments key to offensive identity originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area
SAN FRANCISCO — It’s never wise to count the Giants out. Even when they appear dead in the water for the majority of a game.
They’ve built a reputation in recent years on late-game heroics and come-from-behind wins and the team’s 6-5 walk-off win over the Cleveland Guardians on Wednesday at Oracle Park was another example of their even-keeled approach at the plate paying off late in games.
After trailing 5-1 in the second inning, the Giants’ offense was quiet for most of the game, but scratched across a second run in the bottom of the seventh before J.D. Davis blasted a game-tying, three-run home run in the bottom of the eighth to even the score before LaMonte Wade Jr.‘s walk-off single two innings later in the 10th.
The Giants have been incredibly inconsistent as a team this season, especially at the plate, but have found a way to sprinkle in those signature walk-off or come-from-behind wins that make you think they’ve finally turned a corner only to then immediately fall flat on their faces.
Giants manager Gabe Kapler, however, believes Wednesday’s thrilling win is evidence of a special quality the team possesses that gives them hope they can reach the playoffs and believes when the regular season comes to a close on Oct. 1, the team will look back on this win as a turning point.
“I don’t know what it is about this team, but this is something that is worth being really optimistic about,” Kapler said. “When we get into those very close battles — first, we don’t give up, there’s a bunch of fighters in that room and those guys are consistently battling — but then second, we get close, we close out games pretty well. We close out games with our pitching staff pretty well, we close out games with big hits with everything on the line in extra innings well, it’s a signal of a solid, fighting team.
“So I think we’re going to look back at this game at the end of the season and believe it’s very meaningful.”
The Giants are a uniquely built team and the roster is constructed in a way where they don’t have to live and die by the long ball, even, if at times, their approach at the plate might be evidence to the contrary. Whether it be a home run, single, walk, hit-by-pitch, or an error, the Giants are no strangers to the big moment and have won games in a variety of different ways, a key ingredient to a winning formula.
The roster is about the healthiest it’s been all season and Kapler believes his squad is well-equipped to continue delivering in big moments.
“First, I think there’s more in the tank,” Kapler explained. “We have not played our best baseball on offense, that’s been pretty well documented. We have hit some big home runs recently, I’d say over the course of the last six or seven games, and I think there’s more opportunity to even extend that, I don’t want to call it a streak, but good, quality big hits in big moments kind of baseball.
“Michael Conforto is not that far away. Once Michael is on our roster, we have a very complete lineup and a bench that can do damage as well on any given night. It’s not necessarily a signal we’re going to hit home runs all the way through the season, but we definitely have the capability to and we have the capability to get big hits down the stretch and I think we’re trending in the right direction.”
A healthy Giants roster still is a far cry in comparison to superstar-laden teams like the Atlanta Braves or Los Angeles Dodgers, but it’s the grind-it-out approach of players like Davis, Wilmer Flores, LaMonte Wade Jr., or Thairo Estrada for example that is so infectious to the rest of the team and has been instrumental in San Francisco keeping pace in the Wild Card race and competing in games with teams outside their weight class.
“I think as a team offense, we’ve always preached about passing the baton and just try and have the grindier and grittier team in a sense, even if we may not hit home runs, even if we strike out, we try to at least for four, five, six, seven pitches so we can get the pitcher’s count up,” Davis said postgame.
The Giants are 11-3 in extra-innings games and 22-17 in one-run games this season, in part because the deficits they might find themselves in almost never are insurmountable. In fact, more often than not, one swing of the bat usually can change their fortunes, as evidenced by Wednesday’s walk-off win.
“To take a page out of the first half, we were so good at not letting the other team, even if they get ahead or if they hit us first, to not really stay down, to get back up and just trade blows back and forth,” Davis explained.
“I think when we get ahead of ourselves is when we get too aggressive and when we stay selectively aggressive as an offense, as a team, I think that’s where we can kind of domino effect and really not put our heads down when we’re down. I think that just speaks volumes about how this group of guys are. We all want to be a tough out in the lineup, and same thing, pass the baton.”