Kapler, Zaidi have no regrets with how Giants played Game 5


SAN FRANCISCO -- When Farhan Zaidi and Gabe Kapler sat down behind a podium Monday morning at Oracle Park, it had been a little more than three-and-a-half days since the check-swing call that ended their season. They were asked if that time had given them any additional perspective on the five-game series with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Zaidi smiled and urged Kapler to go first. 

"I need a little more time," he said. 

It might take all winter for those wounds to fully close, and even then that might not be the case. Members of the 2016 Giants team still talk about the way Game 4 of that NLDS played out, and members of that staff still have regrets. There's a difference with Zaidi, Kapler and their players, though. 

You can't pinpoint any one decision, or a string of them, that definitively ended their season. Kapler said that what stood out as he digested the loss was how well the Giants actually played. 

"I felt like the game went really well for us in a lot of different ways," he said. "I thought Logan (Webb) pitched a great game. Obviously I thought we were able to kind of mix and match our way through that game and give people good chances to have success, and then I felt like we got to the end of that game and had a good chance to win the game. Those are the things you look for.

"Obviously you want to score a bunch of runs early in the game and have it be lopsided in your favor, but I also think that when you look back at, 'Hey, how did we do in that game?' I actually thought we played a good defensive game and a quality game from just about every angle. Which made it kind of tough to lose."

If there was ever a moment to vent it was Thursday night when Kapler walked into the interview room shortly after the missed call. He said that night that the Giants just didn't do enough to win the series and you had to tip your cap to the Dodgers. After a weekend to think about it more, Kapler appreciated the way his team prepared and played Game 5.

"I feel okay about it at this point," Kapler said.

That's not to say he is ready to move on. Kapler admitted it was difficult to watch the postseason once the Giants were eliminated. He didn't pick up the remote until Sunday night, when he watched a couple of innings of the second game of the NLDS between the Dodgers and Atlanta Braves. 

Zaidi has had a slightly greater appetite for baseball, although he also admitted it's not easy to watch. He said he feels like an actor who has missed out on a part and now has to go to the theater and watch someone else on the big screen. To dull some of that pain, Zaidi has mixed in nearly the entire season of Squid Game. 

"Which probably says a little bit about my mental state," he joked.

There is only so much Netflix can do to keep Giants employees distracted, but if this NLCS keeps going this way, perhaps they will find some solace in the end result. The Dodgers look exhausted and their pitching plans have been shredded. Part of that is self-inflicted, but they certainly are paying for Max Scherzer coming out of the bullpen to put away Game 5 of the NLDS. The Championship Series started two days later across the country, and Scherzer admitted he had a dead arm for his next appearance. 

That doesn't surprise the Giants, including Zaidi, who said he saw Scherzer's comments. He noted that the Giants used Kevin Gausman in that final game and had Alex Wood get loose in the bullpen. Those two would have been asked to start games over the weekend, with Logan Webb not available until Game 3. Both rivals emptied the tank in the NLDS. 

"I think that was a reflection of how important it was to both teams," Zaidi said. "It was survive and advance and don't think too far ahead because it was going to be a battle, and it really was."

Kapler has thought about how the final game against the Dodgers was managed by both sides and said that personally, he "didn't have much appetite for doing anything but getting out of Game 5 and into the NLCS."

"I totally understand why the Dodgers played it the way they did," he continued.

For five games, the NLDS felt like a World Series. It was physically and mentally exhausting for both sides, and as Zaidi waited for those final nine innings against a powerhouse he helped build, he found himself thinking about the big picture. He said he had conversations with people last Thursday about how such a long season and long couple of years for all involved likely would come down to one at-bat or one pitch. 

"It really did," he said. "That's sort of the beauty and cruelty of baseball kind of rolled into one."

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As he looked back, Zaidi, like Kapler, felt the Giants played well enough to win the decisive game. He said the Dodgers obviously did, too, calling them very deserving winners. It might have been tough to swallow last week, but it didn't take much time for Zaidi, in his third season in charge at Oracle Park, to find some perspective.

Zaidi's son fell asleep that night in his orange Giants jersey, with his parents cuddling up next to him. When they all woke up Friday morning, Zaidi looked over and saw his son, still wearing the jersey, with a big smile on his face.

"You have those moments and you're like, 'Life goes on,'" he said Monday. "We had a great year. We have a lot to be proud of. I don't think we look back with any regret or bitterness at what was a great series."

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