SAN FRANCISCO — One week in, and the 2022 baseball season already has its first quarrel over the unwritten rules.
By the bottom of the second inning on Tuesday night, the Giants had already raced out to a nine-run lead over the Padres, ambushing starter Yu Darvish with six runs in the first and four more in the second. At that point, the game, for all intents and purposes, was over. The drama was only beginning.
Steven Duggar, whose single plated the final run of that second inning, promptly swiped second base with a nine-run lead. Then, in the bottom of the sixth, with the Giants still leading by nine, Mauricio Dubón dropped a bunt single up the third-base line.
The Padres dugout did not respond kindly to the situation. Manager Bob Melvin chirped from the top step. First baseman Eric Hosmer made his feelings known to Dubón.
“I definitely told him how I felt, how we felt about it,” said Hosmer, following the Giants’ 13-2 victory at Oracle Park. “He said it was a sign given to him by their staff. I just told him I think you’ve got to be a little bit smarter in that situation. You’ve been playing professional ball for a good amount of time obviously if you’re at this level. You’ve got to be smarter than that.”
The Giants felt otherwise. They felt that Dubón’s bunt and Duggar’s steal were well within the unwritten rules. Those were the smart plays, they said.
“I fully support both of those decisions,” Giants manager Gabe Kapler said. “Our goal is not exclusively to win one game in a series. It’s to try to win the entire series. Sometimes, that means trying to get a little deeper into the opposition’s ‘pen. I understand that many teams don’t love that strategy.”
“And I get why. It’s something that we talked about as a club before the season and that we were comfortable going forward with that strategy. It’s not to be disrespectful in any way. It’s because we feel very cool and strategic. It’s the best way to win a series. When I say cool, I mean calm. We’re not emotional about it. We’re not trying to hurt anybody. We just want to score as many runs as possible, force the other pitcher to throw as many pitches as possible. If other clubs decide that they want to do the same thing to us, we’re not going to have any issue with it.”
Two years ago, of course, the Padres were at the center of another unwritten rules kerfuffle, when Fernando Tatis Jr. hit a grand slam on a 3-0 pitch with his team leading by seven runs in Texas. The Rangers were none too pleased, and the next pitch sailed behind Manny Machado. In the days after the incident, the Padres defended Tatis, noting the importance of tack-on runs.
On Tuesday night, it was the Padres trailing by nine runs, seeming to take issue with the Giants bending (or breaking) the unwritten rules in order to add to the score. Nothing further came of the incident, however, and the Giants won the game handily, with right fielder Wil Myers pitching the eighth inning for San Diego.
Dubón’s bunt came in the bottom of the sixth with right-hander Dinelson Lamet on the mound. It was a perfectly executed bunt up the third-base line. Lamet had no chance. Padres third baseman Machado barely moved.
“I’m not trying to disrespect anybody,” Dubón said. “We’re just trying to win a series. That means carrying on rallies so we can burn arms. That’s it. I’m not trying to disrespect anybody.”
Nonetheless, Dubón arrived at first base to an irked Hosmer and an irritated Padres dugout. Afterward, Melvin said only: “I have no comment on either of those. I really don’t want to get into it.”
The Padres and Giants play 17 more times this season, and their series finale is slated for Wednesday at 12:45 p.m. PT. Does Hosmer consider this matter finished?
“Game’s over, we lost, it happened,” he said. “We were obviously mad about it. But we’re not going to continue to talk about it. It happened. That’s it. Move onto the next one, try to win a series.”
In the Giants’ eyes, that’s all they were trying to do all along.