SF Giants, LA Dodgers convey differing types to NLDS

SAN FRANCISCO – Gabe Kapler called it the “catch of the year”.

Buster Posey said it was one of the best catches he has seen in person.

Kevin Gausman sees it as a turning point in the Giants’ remarkable 2021 season.

Not only did Mike Tauchman bring back a potential walk-off home run by jumping in front of the wall of Dodger Stadium, he also swung the momentum of the Giants-Dodgers rivalry in San Francisco’s favor.

After the Giants lost four straight games to the Dodgers to open the season, Tauchman’s robbery of future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols made it possible on Jan.

“It was huge,” said Gausman before Game 1 of the NLDS at Oracle Park. “Of course, to make it to this place at Dodger Stadium it had been a huge streak to come back and win this game.”

That Tauchman was even in the game for the Giants reflected the different styles used by Kapler and Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. The outfielder, acquired in a trade that sent Wandy Peralta to the Yankees in April, competed as a pinch-hitter against right-handed Blake Treinen and stayed as part of a double substitution that made him a defensive replacement for left outfield Alex Dickerson did.

The move gave the Giants a move advantage against Treinen, gave Kapler a spot in the strike order to use Evan Longoria in a big pinch hit on the bat later in the game, and also improved the team’s defense. Tauchman, who was designated for deployment on July 28th after releasing a .566 OPS in 166 At-Bats, knocked out Treinen, but the move was one of many Kaplers that season who ultimately played a big role determining the results of. played several Giants wins.

It was also the kind of strategic move that Roberts didn’t have to think about much this year.

With a line-up filled mostly with hits like Corey Seager and Justin Turner starting against right- and left-handed pitchers, the Dodgers don’t make nearly as many direct substitutions as a Giants team that has a hockey-style line change becomes when an opponent brings in a relief mug.

“It seems like our entire squad, maybe not in one game, but over the course of a few games, our entire squad will likely be used,” said shortstop Brandon Crawford. “Whether it’s a pinch punch or comes from the bullpen or whatever it is.”

Crawford and Catcher Buster Posey are two of the few NLDS Game 1 Giants starters who can count on being in the Game 2 lineup when the Dodgers turn to southpaw Julio Urías. On opening day in 2020, Kapler even met right-handed infielder Donovan Solano for Crawford when Roberts challenged left-handed Adam Koralek out of the bullpen.

The Giants veteran shortstop has found its way out of a short-lived and undesirable move, but at most positions around the diamond, the Kapler era has shown a rotation of players that depends on the handedness of an opponent’s starting pitcher.

“He’s done a great job with this team,” Roberts said of Kapler. “So what it tends to mean in this series, there are tendencies, there are trends, but when you get into the postseason where everything is magnified more, it’s a little less predictable.”

The Giants made a slightly unpredictable move with their Game 1 lineup, as Kapler could have started left-handed beating outfielder Steven Duggar and LaMonte Wade Jr. moved to first base to add an extra left-handed to Dodgers starter Walker Buehler to squeeze, but the club decided to leave Duggar on his bench and start Wilmer Flores at first base.

The decision puts Flores, who released a .972 OPS in September, onto the line-up, while Kapler saved Duggar and his left-handed outfielder Alex Dickerson for pub gigs against a Dodgers bullpen that is heavy for right-handed people.

Kapler, Giants President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi, and other top decision makers spend a lot of time determining how their staff will be deployed before each game. Roberts, on the other hand, had to plug a hole created when Max Muncy dislocated his elbow with a pull between Matt Beaty and Albert Pujols in first base, but the Dodgers’ starting line-up in Game 2 on Saturday might look the same as the iteration of Fans saw in game 1.

“I think the Dodgers have great faith in both their bank and their bullpen, but their starting line-up is a group that could obviously see the entire game and that wouldn’t be a surprise either,” Kapler said on Friday.

To win the NLDS, the Dodgers rely on their steady stars and daily starters, who for the most part will play every inning of every playoff game. The Giants need Crawford and Posey to shine, but to defeat the Dodgers they also need the same performances from substitutes that made up their 107-winning season.

Not everybody can deal with Joe Decide’s robust teaching fashion. And most of them aren’t Giants anymore.

It is not for everyone.

If the past year and two days of Joe Judge’s tenure as coach of the Giants have shown us anything, it is that his methods require a certain kind of player personality to be successful. Because of this, while fans have been thrilled with the additions to the roster to bolster the playmaking in recent months, the more important process to the Giants’ success could be weeding out those who are not fully invested in the plan.

Whether Golden Tate or Marc Colombo or this week Kelvin Benjamin who decided he’d had enough before the training camp’s first full workout began in earnest, Judge is on a mission to prune every branch that tries to grow other direction than his vision.

Because of this, almost everyone in the Giants workforce has ancestry that runs through either New England or Alabama – specifically, Bill Belichick or Nick Saban, the two major influences in Judge’s philosophy. Because of this, many of the players who have joined the team since Judge took office in January 2020 have similar roots and personalities.

Richter does not hide his methods.

“We’re not trying to make this an easy place,” said Richter. “We want to make sure that through training the players are applying as much pressure as possible so that when they get into the games they can deal with a level of adversity and pressure that will help them function better.”

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It’s a system that works as long as there are players who buy it. So far, the Giants have been able to keep more of these guys with them than those who can’t or won’t carry the judge’s flag for him. He has a dressing room with young executives in Daniel Jones, Evan Engram, Sterling Shepard, and Leonard Williams who not only seem to tolerate the judge’s rules, but thrive among them. This is one of the reasons he dated Kenny Golladay for almost three days before the Giants decided to invest in him as a free agent this off-season to make sure he was that kind of person.

“He’s a tough coach,” said second grader Xavier McKinney (of Alabama, it should be noted) on Thursday. “He asks a lot of us, but we take on the challenge every day. It can be pretty brutal at times, but it is what it is. It wasn’t before … We love the process of going through it. “

But there is a countdown to how long such a culture can last without a very important ingredient. For Judge’s Way to work in the long term, the Giants have to win.

It started a little late last year, but the clock is now ticking towards a time when victories have to become far more mundane than has been the case with this franchise over the past decade.

There is nothing wrong with going the hard way, but it must lead to more success than the easy way. Something has to change in the team.

It won’t be a judge.

“Look, I’ll always be me, I’ll do it with my personality,” he said. “I think you have to do this or you will only lie if you try to be something else.”

The judge said he spent time this off-season investigating how he interacts with players. He said he was trying to hear as many wise voices as possible, from sports psychologists to professional lacrosse and women’s basketball coaches to Navy SEALs, to get a better understanding of the best ways to reach this current group of Giants players .

“I don’t want to miss anyone,” he said. “One of the most important things we want to do is evaluate our team and make sure we don’t put someone on the road who can help us win, who we misjudge because we don’t see through a shadow of a personality can to see what someone can really do. “

Despite Benjamin’s grievances, which he voiced to the media by complaining that Judge confronted him for failing to come into the camp with the weight the team wanted him to take, cursing too much and being a “know it all”, The Judge he never interacted with actually has a pretty good track record of listening to and understanding the players. The coach who gets players to run penalties in practice is the same one who did a “favor” to rookie Derrick Dillon last year by removing him from the training roster so he could be at the birth of his child, the same coach Kadarius, who was last at the mini camp this month saw Kadarius Toney in the locker room crying over the news that a close relative was sick and put him on the first flight home to be with his family there.

Because of this, several players came to Judge’s defense because of Benjamin’s farewell shots.

“He has a right to his opinion,” said cornerback James Bradberry. “I definitely think Coach Judge is tough. We have a lot of pressure in our shoes so I don’t expect him to give us our will all the time. A tough coach, that’s how you build structure, that’s how you build.” Discipline. That’s what he’s building here. “

Regarding the salty language, Judge didn’t apologize – “It’s a little different when you’re out there, kind of a heat of the moment,” he said – but insisted that he and his staff never use those words about players themselves .

“It’s very intense,” Dexter Lawrence said of Judge. “He respects us, we respect him … I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like him.”

At least not on the list.

No longer.

Notes & Quotes: Saquon Barkley stays with PUP, but he might get closer to his teammates. The running back, recovering from a torn cruciate ligament, looked much more active and explosive on Thursday than on Wednesday. The Giants are taking Barkley slowly, but Thursday’s presentation may have given them some evidence that he’s almost ready for action. . . First-round pick Kadarious Toney has yet to participate in training camp exercises or reps despite being removed from the COVID-19 / reserve list earlier this week. “We’ll keep it going up over there [on the side with the trainers]”said Richter.” We’ll take him day in and day out, “was quickly followed by center Nick Gates, and then a trio of culprits – Daniel Jones, Alex Bachman and Brett Heggie – who toured together.

Tom Rock began reporting on sports for Newsday in 1996 and has been the Giants beat writer since 2008.