Giants Rookie Camilo Doval Emerging As Potential Playoff Hero
LOS ANGELES—Every so often, a rookie comes up at midseason and changes his teams’ playoff fortunes.
The most famous example is Francisco Rodriguez, who pitched only 5.2 innings during the regular season for 2002 Angels but was so dominant they included him on their playoff roster. He went 5-1, 1.93 while appearing in 11 of 16 games for the Angels that postseason, helping lead them to their first World Series championship.
Most recently, Randy Arozarena didn’t join the Rays until five weeks into the shortened 2020 season and played in only 23 of their 60 games. He proceeded to set the record for most home runs in a single postseason and carried the Rays to the American League pennant.
Camilo Doval has a long way to go to reach the heights of Rodriguez or Arozarena. Even so, the 24-year-old rookie righthander has already made a significant impact on the Giants’ postseason outlook.
Doval pitched two perfect innings to close out the Giants 1-0 win over the Dodgers in Game 3 of the National League Division Series on Monday night. He became the first rookie to have a two-plus inning save in the postseason without allowing a baserunner since saves became an official statistic in 1969, according to STATS Perform. He became the first Giants pitcher to record a multi-inning save in the postseason since Madison Bumgarner’s five-inning masterpiece to close out the Royals in Game 7 of the 2014 World Series.
Doval has not allowed a run in 17 appearances since the Giants recalled him from Triple-A Sacramento on Sept. 5. In that time, he’s taken over as the unquestioned closer in a Giants bullpen that posted the lowest ERA in MLB this season.
“To be able to step in the way that he has and basically solidify that closer’s role kind of out of nowhere… and do what he did tonight was pretty special for a young guy that doesn’t have a whole lot of major league experience,” said Giants third baseman Evan Longoria, who provided the game’s only run with a leadoff home run in the fifth inning. “What he did cannot be understated, especially given the circumstances.”
Doval, the Giants No. 22 prospect prior to the season, entered in the eighth inning with a one-run lead, the heart of the Dodgers’ order due up and a sold-out crowd of 53,299 giving them their full-throated backing. With his 99-101 mph fastball and biting 86-88 mph slider, he quickly dispatched the all-star trio of Trea Turner, Corey Seager and Justin Turner in 15 pitches to silence the crowd and preserve the lead.
When Doval returned to the dugout, Giants manager Gabe Kapler asked him about going back out for the ninth. Doval didn’t hesitate with his response.
“I got it Papi,” Doval told Kapler. “I’m ready.”
In the ninth, he quickly got Chris Taylor and A.J. Pollock to fly out to center. Down to the final out, Dodgers pinch-hitter Gavin Lux came up and sent a 99 mph fastball deep to center field. On most nights, the ball likely would have carried over the fence to tie the game. But on this night, with the wind blowing in at 15 mph, it stayed in the park and dropped into center fielder Steven Duggar’s glove just in front of the warning track for the final out.
For the Giants, it was a moment to exhale. For Doval, it extended his scoreless streak to 19.1 innings. During that time, he has allowed eight hits, walked three and struck out 25.
“Tonight was particularly impressive,” Kapler said. “It’s one thing to ask a guy to close out big games without a long track record of success. It’s kind of another step to do what he did, come in in an inning that wasn’t necessarily going to be his inning… but then have him be so successful in that first inning and him have so much confidence and go back out there and do it again. I think this one was the most impressive of all.”
Baseball America Prospect Report — April 20, 2021
Camilo Doval, Taylor Trammell and Garrett Whitlock are among the highlights in Tuesday's prospect report.
That Doval is here, closing out playoff games for the Giants, would have seemed unlikely at many stages of his career. He signed with the Giants for $100,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2015 and needed six years to get to the majors. He struck out nearly 13 batters per nine innings in his minor league career but also walked more than five per nine. He made his major league debut in April and logged a 7.59 ERA in his first 13 appearances, after which he was demoted to Triple-A Sacramento. He remained there most of the summer and only became a recurring member of the Giants bullpen again when rosters expanded in September.
During that September stint, he discovered control to complement his big stuff. He walked six batters in 10.1 innings his first time through the majors. Now, in addition to his current scoreless streak, he hasn’t walked a batter in his last 12 appearances.
“It was just work, work, work,” Doval said through an interpreter. “I didn’t have control of my nasty pitches, basically. Now I’m able to control my fastball. I’m able to place my slider wherever I want. That’s about it.”
Simple enough in theory, but difficult to execute in practice. Now that Doval has, he’s become a critical member of the Giants who will have a substantial impact on their postseason fortunes as their closer. For many rookies with only 27 total innings of major league experience, that would be an unsettling amount of pressure on their shoulders.
For Doval, it’s exactly how he wants it.
“I feel very proud, very fortunate, and I appreciate the fact that the manager trusts me to pitch in these situations,” he said. “I really enjoy pitching in these types of games.
“I think the confidence is just something that you earn by doing a great job, and that’s the way to repay the managers confidence.”