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The Iceman Cometh

Rookie Camilo Doval proved himself in big situations in September and the postseason, making him the unlikely go-to when the Giants season was on the line.

Division Series - Los Angeles Dodgers v San Francisco Giants - Game Five Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images

2021 stats: 29 games, 27 IP, 3.00 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 37 K, 3 SV

Camilo Doval may have thrown one (or four) too many sliders to close out his 2021 season, but the fact that he was on the mound in a tie ball game in the top of the 9th of game 5 of the NLDS against the Los Angeles Dodgers is incredible.

In a year full of improbable outcomes, Camilo Doval being the pitcher Gabe Kapler calls to the mound in that situation is probably the zaniest.

Zany because I (and probably a lot of other people as well) didn’t know who Doval was at the start of the season.

Zany because his ERA at the end of May after nearly 11 innings pitched over 13 games was 7.59 with a WHIP of 1.59.

Zany because he spent the majority of the summer in Triple-A, making one appearance in August against the Rockies in which he pitched the last two innings and struck out four in a 7-0 blowout win.

Zany because...well, I’m going to stop using the word ‘zany’ now, but the point is no one expected a rookie who had never pitched above single-A before the 2021 season would be taking the mound in the biggest moments the San Francisco Giants had experienced in seven seasons.

I can tell you exactly when I realized Camilo Doval was a 1.) a Giant and 2.) when I decided he was probably one of the more bad-ass (i.e. someone who would never use the word ‘zany’) Giants on the 2021 roster/ possibly franchise history.

September 5th: A good day to be a Giants fan. It was a beautiful day in San Francisco. The Giants and Dodgers were tied at 9 games a-piece in the season series and the boys from Los Angeles were all dressed like Violet Beauregarde wandering around Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. The Giants had tagged potential Cy Young candidate Walker Buehler for six runs over three short innings, but were dangerously close to losing their lead when the Dodgers loaded the bases in the 5th with two outs.

Camilo Doval, who came in to replace Jose Quintana, had just been called up from Sacramento earlier hat day. He hadn’t pitched in the Majors since August 12th. Before that, May 20th. Again, this was his rookie season. And he was brought into the most stressful situation against the most elite teams in the league/decade/baseball history to get one out, kill the rally, keep the lead…

Doval walked Will Smith and the Dodgers added a run.

Who cares that it was a perfect pitch: a four-seam fastball that could’ve passed as an accent wall in the den—it was called a ball. A run scored. The Dodgers were threatening.

But Doval didn’t care. You can see this is in his face when he gets the ball back from Casali after the walk. He knows he beat ‘em. The umpire gave the Dodgers a run, but Doval, in that moment, knows that has nothing to do with him. Coming back from a 3-0 count, he threw a pitch that Smith could only take and pray that it goes his way. It did, but Doval knows he got ‘em and he knows the Dodgers know.

The next at-bat was nothing to him. The batter’s name was no one and he played for a team from I-don’t-care. It didn’t matter who it was or who was on base or what the score was...that batter was out and after Doval snapped off a 98 MPH fastball to the gut of the strike zone to make it official, he pounded his chest, shrugged his left shoulder, and ascended into a realm of cool most people can only dream about.

That clip will keep me warm through these coming winter months. Like those 8 hour long youtube videos of fireplaces: just Camilo Doval pounding his chest, shrugging his shoulder, walking off the mound, Camilo Doval pounding his chest, shrugging his shoulder, walking off the mound, Camilo Doval…

Camilo Doval went on to pitch a 1-2-3 6th. He escaped a bases-loaded jam again in the 5th on September 22nd against the Padres, getting Manny Machado to swing at three straight diving sliders before inducing a double play to get out out the inning.

In 13 games in September, his ERA was 0.00000000000. His WHIP was 0.65. He didn’t let in a single run for the rest of the season. He was named the National League Reliever of the Month in early October.

In that short time, he became known for his confidence in any situation, his steady hand, his latent pulse, the ice in his veins. “Anywhere I pitch, I make it my home” is about the coolest thing any pitcher could say.

And then to back it up the next day in game 3 in LA, preserving a 1-0 lead over two innings and sealing the Giants victory.

When Gavin Lux drilled a ball to left center that ended up as the final out as opposed to a game-tying home run, Doval smirked. So chill.

Of course, this season doesn’t have a happy ending. Doval lost confidence in his fastball at the worst possible time. He plunked a slumping Justin Turner with it, then gave up a single to Gavin Lux on the pitch after throwing him five sliders. He just didn’t have a feel for it against Bellinger, and relied too heavily on his slider know...whatever.

But after the 1-2 punch of shock and disappointment that hit after that series loss, Doval showed his composure. He kept his head up. He talked to reporters. He answered their questions. He doesn’t shy away from any situation, on-or-off the field, and that’s what you want in a closer.

I can’t wait to see him pitch next year.