(Photo credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports)
Kai Correa hopes his second impression is better than his first when he leads the San Francisco Giants against the visiting Los Angeles Dodgers for a second time Saturday night.
The Hawaii-born Correa was promoted from bench coach to interim manager Friday afternoon when the club announced fourth-year skipper Gabe Kapler had been fired.
The termination came three days before the end of a postseason-less season for the Giants, who won 107 games in Kapler's first regulation-sized season in 2021 before slipping to 81 wins last season and 78 so far this year.
Friday's 6-2 loss assured San Francisco (78-82) will fail to finish at least at .500 for the first time in a full season since going 77-85 in Bruce Bochy's final year in 2019.
"Everyone still wants to win these last two games. We still want to put our best foot forward," Correa said after the game. "My job is helping to make sure we're fostering a two-game culture of trying to win these games."
Correa witnessed much of the same combination of issues that conspired to take Kapler down -- a rookie starting pitcher who couldn't make it through six innings and an offense that was held to two runs or fewer for the sixth straight time.
One of Correa's toughest calls in his debut came back to bite him and the team after, with the Dodgers leading just 3-2 in the sixth, Freddie Freeman doubled and Will Smith was hit by a pitch with one out.
With right-hander Sean Hjelle ready in the bullpen, Correa elected to allow starter Keaton Winn to pitch to J.D. Martinez, who lifted a three-run, back-breaking home run to left field.
Correa pulled Winn at that point, after which Hjelle pitched brilliantly, retiring 11 of the 12 batters he faced while preventing the Dodgers from scoring again.
The new Giants skipper has scheduled another rookie, right-hander Tristan Beck (3-3, 4.05 ERA), to start Saturday's rematch. The 27-year-old has faced the Dodgers twice, going 0-0 with a 2.16 ERA in 8 1/3 innings of relief.
Los Angeles (99-61) is slated to give left-hander Clayton Kershaw (13-4, 2.42) his final postseason prep on the penultimate day of the regular season. The 35-year-old is unbeaten in his past 13 starts, going 7-0 with a 1.96 ERA. The Dodgers have won 11 of the 13 games.
The veteran said he's been pitching better than the radar guns might indicate.
"At the end of the day, you just have to execute pitches. It's as simple as that, regardless of what your velocity is or how the stuff's moving," he noted. "Obviously, you'd like to be at your peak, but to be able to put pitches where you want to and execute your off-speed pitches, ultimately, you can get guys out that way."
Kershaw is 26-15 with a 1.99 ERA in 58 career outings against the Giants, 56 of which have been starts. A 27th win would equal the most he's accumulated against any opponent; he's gone 27-11 against the Colorado Rockies.
--Field Level Media