Giants push back on unwritten rules with Duggar steal, Dubon bunt


SAN FRANCISCO -- It was no surprise when the San Diego Padres expressed displeasure at Steven Duggar stealing second base with a nine-run lead Tuesday night, or when they were openly hostile to Mauricio Dubon after he laid down a bunt for a hit in the sixth inning, his team still up by nine. That's the way it's always been in baseball.

But the Giants believe it's time for a change, at least for them.

After a 13-2 win over the Padres, Giants manager Gabe Kapler made it clear that his team will not let off the gas at all this season, no matter what the score of a game is or what the "unwritten rules" might be. The clubhouse reaction was supportive, with added curiosity from Giants players about how this will play out.

It is clear that the Giants have talked about how what they are doing will be viewed by others. They expect other teams to get mad. They know someone in orange and black might take a fastball to the ribs. But Kapler repeatedly said Tuesday that they will keep pushing in an effort to win every series, and ultimately the division and more.

"We're not trying to run the score up on anybody. We're not trying to embarrass anybody. We're not trying to disrespect the game," Kapler said. "I'm fully aware of what the sort of unwritten rules are. We just don't think they apply here. We think the most important thing for us is to try to win the series, and sometimes even win beyond the series. Oftentimes that means trying to see as many relievers as possible and make as few outs as possible."

Kapler said the last part is the Giants' strategy at all times. He said this is a strategy that is "completely unemotional for us," but good luck explaining that to the Padres.

Duggar's stolen base in what was then a 10-1 game led to an ugly exchange between Giants coach Antoan Richardson and Padres coach Mike Shildt. Four innings later, the Padres glared at Dubon from the dugout rail after he bunted for a leadoff single in an 11-2 game.

As Padres manager Bob Melvin yelled at the Giants dugout, veteran San Diego first baseman Eric Hosmer approached Dubon, who later said Hosmer passed on the message that what he had done was "not right."

"I definitely told him how I felt, how we felt about it," Hosmer told reporters. "He said it was a sign given to him by their staff. I just told him I think you've got to be a little bit smarter in that situation. You've been playing professional ball for a good amount of time, obviously, if you're at this level. You've got to be smarter than that."

The Giants would argue that this is being smarter. Kapler repeatedly pointed out that the goal is not to win one game but a series, and sometimes that means leaving the opposing manager with fewer fresh arms. He said he will have absolutely no problem with an opponent who keeps pushing when the Giants are the ones being blown out, but as someone who played 12 MLB seasons for six different teams, he also knows that's not the way the game has been played.

The Giants have been having a conversation about changing that for a couple of years. This season, they decided to put it into action. Players were told in the spring that the team would be more aggressive, even when blowing out an opponent.

"This is just what we decided to do going forward," Kapler said.

As with everything involving the "unwritten rules," there are shades of grey. There are veteran players in the Giants clubhouse who always have viewed the game in a more traditional way, just as there certainly are Padres who like Kapler's method.

San Diego's best player, Fernando Tatis Jr., angered the Texas Rangers two seasons ago by swinging at a 3-0 pitch with a seven-run lead in the eighth inning. Tatis hit a grand slam, and the Rangers immediately threw a warning pitch behind Manny Machado's back.

There was no retaliation Tuesday, but the teams meet 17 more times this season, and there are others who might take exception to the Giants swiping a bag with a huge lead. The game is changing, but it's still filled with managers, coaches and stars who believe in what always has been passed down.

"We know that they're not going to be happy, and that's OK. We're OK with dealing with the consequences of it," Giants right-hander Alex Cobb said. "I think the one common thing you'll find in this clubhouse throughout the entire year is everybody is going to have each other's backs. We're proud to play for each other, proud to be each other's teammates, and whatever [opponents] decide to do going forward, they decide to do. We're prepared for it."

Cobb said the Giants will adjust if they have to, but for now, it's full steam ahead.

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Giants outfielder Joc Pederson acknowledged this is different but pointed out the old way has its flaws, comparing some of the unwritten rules to the type of non-competitive behavior that one would see in an NBA All-Star Game or NFL Pro Bowl.

Pederson hit a homer off position player Wil Myers in the eighth inning, and he said he knew Myers wanted to strike him out. In the box, all Pederson wanted to do was hit a homer, as is always the case.

"It only makes sense to continually compete until the game is over," Pederson said.

Pederson's homer, and another from Wilmer Flores, gave the Giants 13 runs. Ironically on a night with so much drama, none came after the Duggar steal or the Dubon bunt. With Dubon on first, Dinelson Lamet struck out the next three Giants.

Dubon returned to the Giants dugout and found Kapler waiting for him. While their interaction looked intense, Kapler said his message was "great job."

"Way to try to get a base hit. Full 100 percent support," he said of Dubon. "The pitchers are trying to get Mauricio out; Mauricio is trying to get on base. The goal of baseball is to not make an out."

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