SAN FRANCISCO -- After talking to reporters late Sunday afternoon, Patrick Bailey reached into his locker and pulled out a nice glass of red wine. An hour earlier, the rookie catcher had kept much of his clubhouse from reaching for something much harder.
Bailey's walk-off homer with two outs in the 10th inning gave the Giants a 3-2 win over the Texas Rangers, preventing a sweep at the hands of Bruce Bochy and keeping some on his own side from having to face much tougher questions. The Bail-out snapped a four-game losing streak for the Giants and came not long after Gabe Kapler made an excruciating decision to cap a weekend full of interesting ones.
Kapler had pulled Logan Webb after 8 2/3 innings, only to watch his All-Star closer give up the tying run on an odd play and then balk the go-ahead run home in the top of the 10th. The Giants were down to their last out when Bailey pulled his hands in and yanked a Will Smith fastball just over the wall in left field.
It was the perfect pitch in the perfect location for a 24-year-old who has solved a lot of problems for the Giants since coming up in May. Bailey hasn't had much success against breaking balls while hitting from the right side this season and Smith throws his slider 50 percent of the time.
"Until I got to two strikes, I was just looking heater," Bailey said.
Bailey watched as the fastball headed toward the seats in left, fearful that it would hit the Chevron section that is extended over the rest of the wall. When the ball disappeared, a ballpark exploded and a dugout exhaled.
For most of the afternoon, the Giants had played a familiar tune. Two months and four days after a 1-0 shutout, the first of his career, Webb looked headed for another one -- and it was necessary. The slumping lineup totaled 17 strikeouts and continued to waste opportunities, but Webb needed just 96 pitches to get through eight shutout innings.
San Francisco Giants
Kapler initially stuck with Webb, eliciting cheers from the 35,000 at Oracle Park. When he came out after a two-out double, the sound was an odd one. Initially, there were boos for Kapler's decision, but they were quickly drowned out by cheers for Webb.
Kapler knew this would be an emotional weekend at Oracle Park, with Bochy back to face the man who took over when he stepped away. The Rangers won the first two games and Kapler faced questions about a couple of notable decisions. On Friday, he sent newcomer Mark Mathias up to hit for Brandon Crawford in a big spot. A day later, he stuck with Austin Slater against a righty reliever and watched Slater bounce into a crushing double play.
This staff has tried to take emotion out of decision-making, and that was on full display with the toughest call of the weekend. Kapler said it was "super-challenging" to decide between Webb and Camilo Doval for the 27th out.
"I'll always trust Logan in that situation and I trust Doval in the same way," he said. "As much as it can be perceived as 'he took the ball from Logan,' the way I would frame it -- very genuinely -- is I gave the ball to Doval. I had a lot of trust that Doval was going to come in and get a swing-and-miss, or a softer groundball like the one he got."
With a speedy runner on second, Doval got a grounder to the hole at short, but J.P. Martinez raced around to tie the game when Ezequiel Duran beat Crawford's throw to first. In the dugout, Webb sat with a distant look on his face, but he said later that he understood the decision.
"He comes out and he gives the ball to the best closer in the game. I'm not going to complain about that," Webb said. "As a competitor, you always want to stay out there, right? But I also understood. Doval is pretty damn good too and we trust each other. Everybody trusts each other in here.
"I have 100 percent faith in Doval. It was a weird play that happened, but at the end of the day, we won the game. That's all that matters."
The decision was a fascinating one, and even if the Giants had lost, it probably would have been the right one. As good as Webb has been, Doval is as strong a choice as any in baseball if you just need one out, and he has been nearly flawless with the game on the line this season.
But sometimes you make a good call and get a bad result, and when your team is playing the kind of baseball the Giants have in recent weeks, every move gets magnified. The Giants were on the verge of scoring one run for the ninth time in the last 29 games, and those are the times when decision-making can become particularly uncomfortable for those in charge.
Instead, Bailey offered a reprieve.
The road doesn't get any easier, with the Tampa Bay Rays arriving on Monday and the Giants headed to Atlanta and Philadelphia after that, but their rookie catcher allowed them to get a good night of sleep on Sunday, and he made some history. Blake Sabol stunned the St. Louis Cardinals in a similar spot earlier this season, and Bailey and Sabol became the first set of rookie catchers to hit walk-off homers for the same team in the same season.
Even Kapler admitted the homer had some extra significance, although he added that the Giants would have had to wake up on Monday and prepare for the Rays either way. The Giants try to view every game as the same, but given their current state, and given what their lineup did for 9 2/3 innings, and given what happened in the ninth ... that was one hell of a swing.
"That would have been a pretty heart-wrenching loss had it continued in that direction," Kapler said.