Giants Analysis

Latest bullpen game leads Giants past Gausman, Blue Jays

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TORONTO -- The scene that unfolded in the first inning Tuesday night said a lot about the way the Giants view roster construction.

Kevin Gausman wanted to stay in San Francisco but never received a serious long-term offer from the organization. As he warmed up on the mound, Ryan Walker and Alex Wood both got loose about 300 feet away in the visiting bullpen.

Walker is a talented rookie, the type of player the Giants want to build their bullpen around. Wood initially arrived on a small one-year deal and parlayed that into a much more lucrative two-year contract, the type the Giants much prefer to, say, a five-year, $110 million deal.

That’s what Gausman signed for after an All-Star season in San Francisco and the Blue Jays certainly have no regrets. Gausman should again be an All-Star, and if there’s One That Got Away for Farhan Zaidi and the front office, it’s him.

But right now, it would be hard for the Giants to second-guess their preferences.

Walker and Wood matched Gausman’s dominance at Rogers Centre and Tyler Rogers and Camilo Doval combined for three innings to close out a 3-0 win, the 10th straight on the road. The win moved the Giants to 11 games above .500, and a lot of that climbing has been done in bullpen games. They're 10-3 in them, and 4-0 behind Walker, who started for the fourth time in the last eight games.

Walker worked out of a jam in the first before handing the baton over. Wood, pitching in a "bulk innings" role for the first time since signing with the Giants, threw five shutout innings.

"I've been working really hard in between to try and find that consistency aspect and throw strikes," Wood said. "It's a hard game. We've been working really hard in between. I felt like I maybe figured something out. Obviously, we'll see going forward, but I felt great tonight."

His last time out, Wood gave up six runs for the second time in three starts. Kapler met with him afterward and said the staff was changing his role, and on Tuesday, Wood smiled and admitted, "I didn't really have much of a leg to stand on after my last one."

Instead of worrying about his exact title, he worried about his mechanics, specifically a change to his posture that allowed him to stay more upright with his delivery. It certainly seemed to be working Tuesday, but Wood said the night "wasn't the easiest thing to do."

Starters live for their routines, and Wood didn't know if he would be entering in the first, the second or the third. The Giants went with Walker because the Blue Jays have right-handed hitters George Spring, Bo Bichette, Vlad Guerrero Jr. and Matt Chapman in four of their first five spots, but if the first inning got to Daulton Varsho -- and it nearly did -- Wood would have been running in with a fire extinguisher. Had Walker cruised, Wood might have come in after two completed innings.

Walker ended up with a little of both. He allowed two hits, then struck out three straight.

"It was really fun to be able to get out of that one for the team," he said.

Wood took the shutout into the seventh and Tyler Rogers struck out four of the six hitters he faced. A well-rested Camilo Doval got a four-out save.

"We continue to get really gutsy efforts from Tyler Rogers," Kapler said. "The willingness to go back out for that second inning is huge. The bullpen is just kind of a little shorter from the right-hand side when we start Walk, who is also a guy who can pitch in those later-inning roles. Rogers has been just excellent all year (and) it was the right time to give Camilo four outs."

The four combined for 13 strikeouts and held the Blue Jays to one hit in 12 opportunities with a runner in scoring position. They also provided four wildly different looks, which is part of the appeal of bullpen games.

Kapler and his staff have been able to mix and match with different types of pitchers, arm slots and repertoires, replicating a formula the Blue Jays know well. They're 43-37, but they're already 10 1/2 games behind the Tampa Bay Rays, who use openers more often and more effectively than anyone.

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Since Zaidi and Kapler took over, the Giants have consistently signaled that they one day would join that club, although perhaps they didn't expect to do it this often. Logan Webb and Anthony DeSclafani are the only starters who are currently actually starting for the Giants, but Alex Cobb will return this weekend, and Kapler has said that the door is open for Sean Manaea and Ross Stripling to return to the rotation.

Wood went along with the plan on this night, but he made it pretty clear that he has other preferences. For all of the benefits of bullpen games, teams still must always deal with the reality that every pitcher grows up dreaming of becoming what Gausman has become, not of turning into a "bulk innings" guy.

Wood noted that there were benefits to limiting his exposure to the top of Toronto's lineup, but he added that those benefits are marginal when he's on his game.

"I don't know what they have planned moving forward," he said. "I'd like to think that I'll build off today and keep throwing really well and (being in the rotation) becomes more of a conversation than it was going into this start, for sure."

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