Catcher Tyler Heineman pitches as Giants bullpen has another rough day

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Alex Pavlovic
·4 min read
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Before the top of the ninth inning Sunday, Giants manager Gabe Kapler looked up and down his lineup card and tried to find the best position player to soak up an inning and save a bullpen arm. 

Pablo Sandoval has been an easy choice in recent years, but he's coming off Tommy John surgery. Brandon Belt is probably still too important a player for the Giants to let him fulfill his longtime goal, and he's banged up anyway. Perhaps one day Kapler will let Brandon Crawford relive his UCLA days on the mound, but on this day another Bruin was the choice. 

When the Giants took the field in the ninth, trailing 15-3, catcher Tyler Heineman was on the mound. 

"I trusted that he would get on the mound and not try to do too much," Kapler said. "The goal in those situations is to stay safe, lob the ball in there and see how quickly you can get them to put the bat on the ball and get outs."

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Heineman certainly did not try to do too much. He threw seven pitches, all of which were classified by MLB's Hawk-Eye system as curveballs because of how slow and loopy they were. They were not actually curveballs. 

"I was just trying to lob everything in there," said Heineman, who was pitching for the first time since the summer after his freshman year of college. 

Heineman got a grounder to third, gave up a double, and then watched as Mauricio Dubon made a diving catch on a liner to center, doubling off the runner to save Heineman's 0.00 ERA. It was a fun inning. It was, sadly, by far the cleanest ninth inning the Giants had in this series, which tells you all you need to know about the current state of the Giants bullpen. 

This time, the Giants didn't wait until the ninth for the meltdown. They gave up nine runs in the fifth instead, with Wandy Peralta and Dereck Rodriguez combining to briefly give the A's a chance to play home run derby. There were three homers in that fifth alone, two of which nearly cleared the bleachers, continuing a disturbing trend. 

Giants relievers have given up 24 homers in 23 games. That's led to 81 runs allowed, easily the worst mark in the majors. They gave up 22 runs in this series alone, leading to the first three-game sweep at the hands of the A's in nine years. 

"We knew that the early part of the season was going to be an exploration in learning about our relievers, particularly the ones that haven't had much, if any, major league experience," Kapler said. "We knew that would come with some growing pains. That doesn't take away the sting of not having success early in the season."

This whole season is a bit of an audition, but that's true much more with the bullpen than any other group. It wouldn't be a shock if none of the current relievers are still around in 2022, but the Giants are hoping that's not at all the case. They're hoping to find pieces for their next good bullpen, and like Kapler said, there will be growing pains. 

Right now, there just happen to be a lot of them. The Giants went 3-7 on their last road trip and then came home and got swept in excruciating fashion. When Bruce Bochy put Pablo Sandoval on the mound for the first time, he was hoping to cheer up a dugout that was getting smoked by the Dodgers. But the hole right now is so deep that even Heineman's performance didn't bring many smiles to a team that's hanging on by a thread.

[RELATED: Takeaways from Giants' 15-3 loss to A's]

"The hardest part of the whole thing is that we are, in my opinion -- again, I have limited big league experience -- I really do feel like we're a good team," Heineman said. "We've had some mistakes on defense. We've had a couple of things go the other way. I was talking to a couple of guys today and we could very well be the other way around -- 14-8 before this game -- if a couple of things went our way and we didn't make some mental mistakes and physical mistakes.

"We have the makings of being a good team. I just think we're hitting a rough patch right now. The guys that are expected to do well are putting a lot of pressure on themselves. If we just start relaxing, as a team, we'll be in a better situation. The A's are an incredible team and we had them the first two games, up five and up three. If that doesn't show you that we're capable of being in games and competing, I don't really know what else will."

Catcher Tyler Heineman pitches as Giants bullpen has another rough day originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area