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Giants win at Wrigley after Thairo Estrada hits residence run, Camilo Doval places it on ice

CHICAGO — Giants closer Camilo Doval threw a dugout tantrum Sunday in San Francisco that did not go over so well.

Not in the broadcast booth. Announcer Mike Krukow criticized Doval in an appearance on KNBR Monday morning, saying that the Giants’ closer acted like a “pouty 3-year-old” who wanted no part of pitching the ninth inning of a game that the Giants led by 11 runs.

Not among Giants coaches, either. Doval got called into manager Bob Melvin’s office prior to Monday’s series opener at Wrigley Field to clear the air.

But there is one way for a closer to douse any flames of controversy. There’s one way to make everyone forget about a water cooler-throwing outburst.

Put the next game on ice.

Especially when the next game resembles anything like Monday night’s 7-6 victory over the Chicago Cubs: A draining, back-and-forth contest that began in oppressive, 95-degree heat, featured five lead changes, and took so many dramatic dips and drops that watching it should’ve involved a height requirement. Thairo Estrada accounted for the fifth lead change, screaming and flexing as he stomped on home plate while celebrating what he described as the most important home run of his baseball life. The three-run shot off Héctor Neris with one out in the ninth inning erased a two-run deficit. It also created a save situation for Doval and a chance for redemption.

Doval ensured that there would not be a sixth lead change. He retired all three batters he faced and set off a raucous postgame celebration in the visiting clubhouse that could be heard halfway to Lakeshore Drive.

“That was one of the cooler wins I’ve ever been a part of,” said catcher Patrick Bailey, whose 430-foot solo shot in the eighth got the Giants a run closer and who deftly handled right fielder Mike Yastrzemski’s throw to the plate while preventing a run in the fifth.

“It’s a big win and we still have a lot better baseball to play. The consistency we bring day to day I would say is lacking, especially defensively, and you can start with me. But I think the coolest thing about this team is we feel like we’re never out of it. I feel like we never give away at-bats and because of that, we’re able to win games like today.”

Said Melvin: “We were behind the 8-ball a few ties tonight. These guys are pushing hard and it seems like our at-bats get better later in the game.”

Trying to recap everything that happened Monday night would be like taking a dessert plate to a salad bar. There was too much stuff and only so much space. But in addition to home runs from Estrada, Bailey, and Heliot Ramos, who did his best Sammy Sosa impression while hitting a 380-foot shot into the right-field bleachers, the Giants also drew eight walks. Yastrzemski drew one of them in the ninth after Jorge Soler had reached on catcher’s interference to set up Estrada’s heroics. And the Giants drew those walks on a night when plate umpire Manny Gonzalez had such an unpredictable strike zone that Melvin got ejected for commenting on it in the eighth inning.

“We controlled the zone really well,” Yastrzemski said. “The best part about that is I felt there were a lot of pitches that should have gone the other way, especially early in the game. And that didn’t change our mentality. We didn’t start chasing because we felt like things weren’t going our way. We stayed disciplined and hunted our pitches and if they weren’t there, we took them. So it’s a really good ‘mental strength’ game for us.”

Perhaps nobody’s mental strength was being scrutinized more than Doval’s, who entered Monday 12 for 14 in save situations but otherwise is not having another All-Star season. His walk rate has nearly doubled to 6.8 per nine innings. He hasn’t pitched well when asked to soak up an inning in the occasional non-leverage situation. A few hours before Sunday’s homestand finale, the Giants scratched left-handed starter Kyle Harrison because of a sprained ankle. Melvin asked Doval to do his part to spread the workload among a spent bullpen. He summoned Doval to pitch the ninth inning while the Giants led by 11 runs. Doval recorded just one out, the Los Angeles Angels knocked him for four runs, and the right-hander was so frustrated that he turned a water cooler in the dugout into an airborne object.

Melvin ordinarily wouldn’t bat an eye at a player’s dugout tantrum. Managers typically appreciate players who are intense and hate losing almost as much as they enjoy winning. But Melvin had the same question that was on everyone else’s mind: Was Doval upset at his performance? Or that he was pitching at all?

Krukow made his thoughts clear in a Monday morning appearance with Murph and Markus on KNBR: “He didn’t want (to be) anywhere near that mound. And he was not ready. It was a distraction. It was a pout. It was a major-league pout. And the Angels lit him up. … He was a pouty 3-year-old kid and he acted like it. Completely! Even when he got back in the dugout. But get it off your chest, move on. You’ve got a lot of baseball left.”

Melvin, who has stressed the importance of accountability from the day he was introduced as the Giants’ manager, understood that the optics of Doval’s tantrum were bad regardless of why the pitcher was frustrated. So he and pitching coach J.P. Martinez, who is bilingual, met with Doval behind closed doors Monday afternoon.

A generation earlier, an All-Star closer wouldn’t need to be reminded that his duties occasionally go beyond nailing down save opportunities. He wouldn’t have to be told that there will be days when he is asked to be a good teammate and save another overworked pitcher, or help to spread the workload in a blowout game for the team to keep as many relief options available for the following day. A reliever wouldn’t have to be told to stay ready to pitch under any circumstances.  But these are different times and players have different expectations. It was agreed that the communication could have been better all the way around. Mostly, Melvin wanted Doval to understand that nobody wanted him to pitch in that game Sunday.

“That’s all we had left and we’re trying to play chess with this thing, have certain guys available on certain days,” said Melvin, who has operated with something short of a five-man rotation for nearly the entire season. “It’s not an ideal situation for a closer. And it doesn’t surprise me he came back and pitched the way he did today.”

Krukow, in his appearance with Murph and Markus on KNBR, criticized Doval for being mentally unprepared to pitch Sunday and for not respecting the difficulty of facing major-league hitters, who are talented and prideful regardless of the scoreboard or how competitive their team might be.

“So when you go on that mound, you’d better bring some preparation between your ears,” Krukow said. “And that’s what he learned. The game of baseball gave him a hell of a lesson yesterday. Is it a problem? No, because he’s going to learn from it. And he’s also going to get … teammates (saying) ‘You need to be ready, pal.’ Because it will bite you in the butt. And he got bit. He was embarrassed. And now he’s never going to want that to happen to him again. He’ll never take on that situation again the way he took it on yesterday.”

It should be noted, though: because the Giants led by more than 10 runs, Melvin could have sent a position player such as Nick Ahmed to the mound in the ninth inning Sunday.

Doval, asked following Monday’s victory whether his dugout tantrum the previous day was more about the results or being asked to pitch in a blowout, somewhat skirted the question but acknowledged his difficulty with non-save appearances.

“I’m a little bit different,” Doval said through Spanish interpreter Erwin Higueros. “I have my routine. I’m the type of guy that drives with the adrenaline. Right? So the (LED light) show (in the ninth inning), to close games, that is what I have earned. That’s what I want to do. So when I come in in (blowout) situations, there is no adrenaline to drive me. However, the hitters are patient because they are losing. So they are going to wait and wait and wait. And then (poor results) are what happens. Whereas when I come in with the game on the line, I’m competing and they are competing. So they’re going to chase bad pitches.”

Earlier this month, when asked about his walk rate, Doval pointed to his non-save appearances when “hitters are standing there like they are getting their picture taken.”

“My pitches move out of the strike zone,” he continued. “They are not swinging at them. That makes it more difficult because I have to go in the strike zone. But I trust my stuff and I know eventually they will chase. And if I need to attack the strike zone, I will go ahead and attack the strike zone.”

The walk rate really might come down to game situations. Doval’s zone percentage is down only slightly from last season. He is throwing first-pitch strikes at a near-identical rate. His opponents’ chase rate is down by an insignificant amount as well. The biggest year-over-year differences have more to do with giving up louder contact on pitches within the zone.

With the game on the line, though, Doval continues to be among the most effective closers in the game. And that’s an awfully important piece to possess at the end of an emotional game in which every lead is seemingly written in water.

The Giants went ahead in the seventh when Estrada was grazed by a pitch with the bases loaded. The Cubs scored four runs in the bottom half against left-hander Erik Miller when Seiya Suzuki hit a tying double and Ian Happ cranked a three-run home run. But Bailey’s shot smacked off a scoreboard that otherwise interrupted a trajectory that would’ve sent the baseball soaring over Sheffield Ave. Then Estrada hit the home run of his life. And there was only one more task to be completed from there.

“What I have learned is in baseball … is that bad things will find you,” Doval said. “That’s a given. But good things, you have to look for them. Yesterday I had my rage, I threw the cooler, but once I left the stadium, I forgot it. I showed up today and whatever happened yesterday was in the rearview mirror.”

(Photo of Thairo Estrada: Jamie Sabau / Getty Images)

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