Giants right to push back against another ‘unwritten rules’ controversy

WASHINGTON DC — The handshake line that took place at the end of Friday’s game has become the new normal for the Giants. An incident that occurred less than 10 minutes earlier might be part of the story this season, too.

Before the bottom of the ninth inning, Nationals shortstop Alcides Escobar walked over to the visiting dugout and yelled at Giants players and coaches. It was unclear what was said, but the trigger was clear.

With two outs in the top of the ninth, Giants second baseman Thairo Estrada took off from first with a six-run lead. Brandon Crawford dropped a single into the outfield and Estrada rounded third and tried to score. He was thrown out, but it wasn’t hard to figure out what upset the Nationals.

The old “unwritten rules” had come into play again.

The Nationals were upset that Estrada took off with a six-run lead, an odd stance to take given how all the runs in the Giants’ 7-1 win were scored.

“We scored seven runs in an inning tonight,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “They have Josh Bell and Juan Soto and Nelson Cruz in the middle of their lineup, we know they’re capable of scoring seven runs in an inning as well. ”

It is sound logic. And yet, Kapler found himself on the other end of a hostile opponent for the second time in two weeks. Afterward, he repeated what likely will become a well-worn message.

“For all of the same reasons we talked about before, this is the way that we think makes the most sense to attack a series,” Kapler said. “It’s not about one game for us, it’s definitely not about running up the score. We felt like we’re respecting our opponents and we’re going to respect our opponents at every turn. This is about using every tool at our disposal to complete. I think you saw that their bullpen was excellent and they threw up a bunch of zeroes against us. We know that they’re a talented group and are capable of doing that and we need to try to compete at every turn.”

The Nationals, of course, did not stop competing. Estrada was thrown out, and on the very next play Juan Soto hit a grounder to first and busted it so hard down the line that he nearly beat Brandon Belt to the bag.

Perhaps Soto had some anger in those steps, but the Nationals shouldn’t have taken anything personally. Soto and the heart of the lineup are precisely why the Giants should have kept the pressure on and did.

Kapler got through eight innings without his high-leverage arms, but what if Soto and Cruz walked to lead off the ninth inning and Bell, who hit 27 bombs last year, popped a homer? Kapler would have had to rush Tyler Rogers or Camilo Doval into the game, or at least forced some of his most valuable relievers to warm up.

It doesn’t make sense to let up, so the Giants will keep pushing. They know opponents will be mad sometimes, although Nationals manager Dave Martinez wouldn’t go into detail after the game.

Escobar declined to speak to reporters, but in the other clubhouse, Austin Slater said he felt Escobar “coming towards our dugout, I think, was a little over the line.”

RELATED: Slater finds “swagger” after early-game chat with Kapler

The Giants moved on quickly, hopeful that there would be no repercussions the rest of this series. They know this won’t be the last time they deal with this.

“It’s part of the old-school, unwritten rules, or whatever you want to call them, that I think people are still holding on to,” Slater said. “I think those days are gone and you have to play until the last out.”

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