Giants reliever Hunter Strickland has a fiery right arm and a mound demeanor to match.
"He’s an intense kid," manager Bruce Bochy said.
Wednesday night, that intensity mixed with the frustration of Strickland allowing two big swings with which the Kansas City Royals turned a close game into a cushiony 7-2 lead. And the result, in Strickland’s words, was: "My emotions got the best of me."
The sixth inning of the Giants’ loss in Game 2 of the World Series was, in its entirety, a nightmare for the Giants. The Royals scored five runs on five hits, while the Giants used five different pitchers before recording the third out. But the ugliest moment came when Strickland allowed a two-run homer to Omar Infante and exchanged some heated words with Royals catcher Salvador Perez, who scored on the play.
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Perez had just hit a two-run double off of Strickland. As Perez crossed home plate, he and Strickland began jawing toward each other, causing members of both teams to leave their dugouts and several players to jog in from the bullpens. Umpires got in the middle of the dust-up, in which nothing more than words were exchanged, and order was restored after a few tense moments.
Strickland later shouldered blame for what he termed a "miscommunication." He said he thought Perez had said something to him while crossing home plate, perhaps in response to Strickland displaying his frustration over allowing the homer to Infante.
"That’s what I initially assumed, and that’s my fault for assuming," Strickland said.
"I don’t know if he thought I was yelling at him or not. I was just frustrated with myself."
Perez later told reporters he felt like Strickland "started looking at me on second base," after his double, and that the interaction continued after Infante’s home run.
"After Omar hit the bomb, and I get close to home plate, he start to look at me," Perez said. "So I asked him, like, ‘Hey, why you look at me?" So he was telling me, ‘Get out of here, whatever.’
"So I don’t know. You don’t have to treat me like that. Look at Omar. Omar hit a bomb. I didn’t hit a bomb. I hit a double."
Strickland said he couldn’t tell what Perez was saying, but that Perez seeming to address him prompted Strickland’s own response.
"It was just, I’m not going to back down from anything," Strickland said. "I thought he must have thought I said something to him."
Strickland reiterated several times, though, what he felt was at the root of the incident:
"I was just frustrated," he said. "I hadn’t done my job to the best of my ability."
And that might be the most pressing matter for the Giants right now regarding Strickland. Bochy has shown a willingness to keep turning to the right-hander, who was pitching in Double-A before September, but Strickland has now allowed five homers in the playoffs and cannot be considered a sure thing in the late innings.
Bochy affirmed after the game that: "He’ll be back out there." But when is the question, and after Jean Machi also allowed an RBI single to the only hitter he faced in Game 2 and Tim Lincecum exited with back tightness, it complicates how the Giants would attempt to bridge the gap to their late-game relievers if their starter doesn’t go deep into the game.
"We’re going to need help in the sixth, seventh inning," Bochy acknowledged afterward. He said Lincecum’s outing in Game 2 was encouraging enough to make him a candidate. But that will be contingent on how Lincecum bounces back from the back tightness.
And how will Strickland bounce back from his latest stumble? Predictably, Strickland was surrounded by reporters and cameras after the game, and kept his composure well going over the events of the sixth inning several times. Nearby, catcher Buster Posey professed his belief that, "Hunter will be fine." Fellow reliever Jeremy Affeldt said he would talk to Strickland about "emotions and how to keep them in check."
"I’ll discuss with him some of the stuff that maybe we can learn from it," Affeldt said. "For him to be where he’s at right now and have some of the situations that took place -- it’s not easy for anybody to deal with. But he’s dealing with it, and we’re going to move on and he’s going to mature."
Bochy also said he would sit down with Strickland.
"You know, he’s a really intense kid," Bochy said. "That’s probably an area he’s going to have to keep his poise. I mean, this kid came up from Double-A, but he’s a tough kid. He shows his emotions, but it’s an area he probably has to work on because you’re going to give up a home run occasionally. These are things we’ll talk to him about."
Finally, Bochy pointed out that it’s the World Series, and, "A lot of emotions are going to be shown in these games." Wednesday night, those emotions simply boiled over.
"Obviously," Strickland said, "I want to handle it a little bit better."