“It’s not making many friends right now around the league, I can guarantee you that,” said Giants analyst Rich Aurilia of Gabe Kapler’s divisive “all gas, no brakes” approach to managing.
For the second time in as many weeks, the reigning NL West champs find themselves embroiled in an unwritten rules controversy. This time, the aggrieved party was Washington, with Alcides Escobar and Victor Robles crying foul after Thairo Estrada tried to score from first on a base hit by Brandon Crawford. Had Estrada been successful (Escobar gunned him down at the plate), it would have stretched the Giants’ lead to 8-1 in the ninth inning.
“We scored seven runs in an inning tonight,” said Kapler after beating the Nationals in Friday night’s series opener. “They have Josh Bell, Juan Soto and Nelson Cruz in the middle of their lineup. We know they’re capable of scoring seven runs in an inning as well.”
Kapler’s stance here is well-documented, welcoming any criticism that may come from the Giants’ penchant for tacking on late runs. San Francisco ruffled feathers in much the same fashion a week ago when Mauricio Dubon bunted for an infield hit in a game the Giants were leading 11-2. Dubon’s tactics weren’t well-received by the Padres, with first baseman Eric Hosmer accusing the Giants of poor sportsmanship, needlessly piling on in the latter stages of a blowout.
Defenders of the “unwritten rules” would argue Kapler is doing his team a disservice by continuing to push the envelope, putting a target on the Giants’ back while providing their opponents with readymade bulletin-board material. Of course, the murky, open-to-interpretation nature of these rules (which, again, don’t actually exist) make it a tricky subject to navigate.
In an unpredictable sport where anything can happen, how many runs is “enough,” and at what point can managers, without risking an embarrassing late-game collapse, feel secure in finally taking their proverbial foot off the gas? While protecting a six-run, ninth-inning lead shouldn’t be a big ask for a Giants bullpen touted as one of the league’s best, it’s far from insurmountable (anyone remember Super Bowl LI?). If the Nationals feel the need to take matters into their own hands by sending a message (likely in the form of a brushback pitch), so be it. But do teams really have a right to be upset at Kapler for doing exactly what he promised?