With a one-run lead and his starter cruising after five innings, Giants manager Gabe Kapler made the risky decision to put the game in the hands of a short-handed bullpen that had been shaky in back-to-back losses against the Marlins.
Despite his closer being unavailable and several arms needing a breather, Kapler’s bullpen delivered, recording the final 12 outs of a 1-0 victory to salvage the series finale in Miami.
An unearned run that scored on an Alex Dickerson RBI single in the third inning proved to be the difference for the 9-6 Giants, who have now shut out their opponents in three of their last four victories.
After missing the first half of April while rehabbing a back injury he dealt with during spring training, left-hander Alex Wood made his Giants debut on Sunday in Miami and tossed five scoreless innings against the Marlins. The lefty only allowed three hits and didn’t surrender a walk as he turned in an efficient outing on a day the Giants were hoping for length from their starter.
Wood likely could have returned for the sixth inning as he only threw 61 pitches, but with the bases loaded and two outs in the top of the sixth, his spot in the lineup came up. With the Giants hoping to take advantage of a rare scoring opportunity against Marlins starter Pablo López, Kapler sent Wilmer Flores to the plate to pinch-hit for Wood, but the decision didn’t pay off as Flores hit a routine flyball to right field to end the inning.
Kapler’s desire to put Sunday’s outcome in the hands of his bullpen was a mild surprise considering the struggles his relievers dealt with in the first two games of the series. Aside from allowing go-ahead hits in Friday and Saturday’s losses, the Giants also entered Sunday’s game without closer Jake McGee, who was placed on the COVID-19 injured list due to lingering side effects after receiving a second vaccine dose earlier this week.
Lefties José Álvarez and Caleb Baragar each worked an inning while right-hander Tyler Rogers picked up the save in place of McGee, but the most impressive performance in the late innings belonged to a pitcher the Giants had never used before.
It’s possible the most important near and long-term development of the day for the Giants took place in the bottom of the seventh when rookie right-hander Camilo Doval entered to make his big league debut. The 23-year-old Dominican Republic native has never appeared in a minor league game above the High-A level, but he looked like a veteran major leaguer by retiring three straight Marlins hitters in a dominant seventh inning.
Doval struck out two, flashed a 98-mile per hour fastball and unveiled a sharp slider that generated three whiffs and and also froze Marlins left fielder Adam Duvall to end the inning.
For a bullpen in search of consistent right-handed relief options, Doval could quickly emerge as a pivotal piece if he’s able to build off of Sunday’s impressive performance.
The Giants broke a scoreless tie in the third inning against López after Marlins first baseman Jesús Aguilar extended the frame with a fielding error on a two-out grounder from Brandon Belt. Left fielder Alex Dickerson capitalized on the mistake by sending a 108.1 mile per hour single through the right side of the infield to score Tommy La Stella, who opened the inning with a single off of López.
Dickerson helped keep the Marlins from tying the game in the fifth inning with the second outfield assist of his career and the first by a Giants outfielder this season. The play made Dickerson a hero in the box score, but it began when he misplayed a looping liner from Miami second baseman Jazz Chisholm and ended when Chisholm lost contact with the second base bag after sliding in safely.
Second base umpire Tim Timmons saw Donovan Solano hold his tag on Chisholm while the speedy infielder momentarily slipped off the base, so he made the split-second call on the field without any assistance from a replay official.
Instead of pitching with one out and a pair of runners in scoring position, Wood was able to work out of a two-out jam thanks to help from Dickerson on another day when the Giants’ offense failed to give its pitching staff much margin for error.