Five Biggest “What-Ifs” of the SF Giants 2020 Season
5. Tony Watson and Sam Coonrod flipped
On the first day of the Giants four-game series against the San Diego Padres to close the regular season, the teams had a double-header. If the Giants won both games, they would have been squarely in the driver’s seat for the final wild-card spot. The problem was their matchups.
The Pads were throwing their ace Dinelson Lamet in the second game against struggling Jeff Samardzija. Samardzija was making his first big-league appearance in over a month and had an ERA over 9 on the season. Frankly, the Giants chances seemed grim to nearly impossible in Game 2. So it felt like they had to win Game 1.
While more favorable, the Giants were by no means the favorite in the first game either. Young righty Chris Paddack was set to take the hill for the Padres, while veteran southpaw Tyler Anderson was on the mound for San Francisco. Both had up-and-down seasons, but Paddack’s propensity to generate strikeouts seemed like a concerning matchup for the Giants.
When the teams stepped on the field for Game 1 though, it was the Giants that broke the game open with a four-run fourth inning. Anderson, on the other hand, shut the Padres explosive offense down, allowing just one run through six innings.
In the seventh (and final) inning, after Anderson allowed a leadoff double to Jurickson Profar, manager Gabe Kapler decided to go to the bullpen. While the Padres had a runner on second base with Trent Grisham, Fernando Tatís Jr., and Manny Machado due up, the Giants still had a comfortable 5-1 lead.
Kapler brought in his best reliever, Tony Watson, anyway. Given how much the team had prioritized resting the veteran southpaw, the move seemed perplexing with three games left in the season.
Most of the other arms had been used heavily in the last couple of days, but Kapler had been more than happy to use pitchers on back-to-back days all season. In fact, when the Giants led 5-3 going into the seventh inning of the second game of the doubleheader, Kapler turned to Sam Coonrod to get the save.
Watson nearly gave up the lead, before getting the final out to secure a 5-4 victory and Coonrod gave up a walk-off home run to Trent Grisham in Game 2. While both Watson and Coonrod struggled, it’s worth wondering if going to Coonrod first could have made things different by giving him a lower stress situation while leaving the veteran for the higher-leverage chance. The results might have been the same, but maybe they find their way to a clean sweep.