As the Giants look to right the ship and make a late-season push for a playoff spot, they will rely on the one area of their team that has been consistent all season long: An elite bullpen.
The unit, headlined by All-Star closer Camilo Doval, has been among the best in MLB this season. Doval, however, has been a shell of himself in recent games.
Doval recently became the first Giants pitcher to blow a save in four consecutive opportunities. The first came in the Giants' win over the Texas Rangers on Aug. 13, then another in Sunday's loss to the Atlanta Braves, and then again on both Tuesday and Wednesday.
In speaking to reporters before Friday's loss to the Braves, Giants manager Gabe Kapler was asked what the team has learned about their closer's struggles and offered three things they can do to help the 26-year-old moving forward.
"We've learned that he needs a lot of support right now, because I think it's challenging when you're as good as Camilo is and you're looking to find your way," Kapler said. "There's three things that stand out that we can immediately do to help support Camilo.
"Number one, we can help him work on continuing to mix his pitches. He has three pitches to select: a cutter, a sinker and a slider. If he's creating a guessing game in the minds of the hitters, it's going to make those hitters compromised. If they're seeing the same pitch over and over, they're eventually going to make adjustments because they're the best in the world at it. So even if you throw 100 mph, they're going to eventually catch up to one. So we can help him mix his pitches."
On average, Doval throws his slider 37.5 percent of the time, his cutter 33 percent of the time and his sinker 29.5 percent of the time. His three-pitch mix has played a big role in his success this season, and his usage was all over the place in his blown saves.
San Francisco Giants
Wednesday, Aug. 23: 17 total pitches; 13 sliders, cutters (76% slider, 23% cutter)
Tuesday, Aug. 22: 19 total pitches; 9 cutters, 9 sinkers, 1 slider (47% cutter, 47% sinker, 5% slider)
Sunday, Aug. 20: 29 total pitches; 17 sinkers, 11 cutters, 1 slider (58% sinker, 37% cutter, 3% slider)
Sunday, Aug. 13: 20 total pitches; 11 cutters, 6 sinkers, 3 sliders (55% cutter, 30% sinker, 15% slider)
The common denominator in all four of those outings was the uneven use of his three pitches, which he historically throws around 30 percent of the time.
The second, and arguably the most important thing the Giants can do for Doval, is to help him compete with runners on base.
"One of the biggest challenges for young players -- all players -- but young players in particular is, there's a guy at the plate and there's somebody on the bases and you're trying to get the hitter at the plate out," Kapler explained. "Sometimes you forget you also have to compete with the runner on the bases, and sometimes that runner is Kyle Schwarber, sometimes it's Trea Turner.
"If it's Kyle Schwarber, you're going to have to treat it a little different than if it's Trea Turner. You have to use your fast move to the plate against Trea Turner, and if you want to use a slower move when Kyle Schwarber's out there, that's probably going to be OK. So how can we support Camilo? We can make sure he has those reminders not just pregame, not just days in advance, but in real-time."
Doval, in just 55 1/3 innings pitched, has allowed 12 stolen bases, which is tied for 19th-most among NL pitchers, most of which are starters.
The third way the Giants can help their young closer is by utilizing the leadership of their rookie catchers who can offer real-time feedback to Doval with the assistance of bilingual infielders, such as Wilmer Flores, if Kapler and the coaching staff already have used up their one mound visit per pitcher.
"The third thing I think we can do for Camilo is we can have our catchers be a part of the game planning to keep him reminded and on top of this," Kapler added. "We can send Patrick Bailey out, we can send Blake Sabol out with the same sort of conviction that we might have in the dugout, maybe even in hindsight.
"And if we need to, because I think this is a really important piece of the puzzle, if Flo is on the field, Flo will be a part of that discussion, because he's awesome at leading, and we have Nick Ortiz, [who is] very capable of going out there and meeting with Pat and Blake, and I think that level of support will really help us solve this Camilo issue that's going on right now."
Doval has emerged as one of baseball's best closers, and when he's on his game, his stuff is nearly unhittable.
From here on out, every outing for any Giants pitcher will be viewed under a microscope as the regular season winds down -- perhaps none more so than San Francisco's flame-throwing closer.