Even Bruce Bochy’s belief in Hunter Strickland had to have been tested tonight. The 26-year-old who can touch 100 mph with his fastball keeps getting touched up in the playoffs, and the cracks in his psyche became full-blown fault lines after he surrendered his fifth home run in six postseason appearances.
Strickland gave up two homers in his postseason debut, one to Bryce Harper and the other to Asdrubal Cabrera. Afterward, he voiced a desire to challenge Harper with the same pitch if they met again. He got that chance, and the result was identical.
Harper jawed at Strickland as he rounded the bases at AT&T Park, and appeared to yell a few things from the dugout after touching home plate. Strickland shrugged it off after the game, which wasn’t too difficult because the Giants won that night and advanced to the NLCS.
Strickland got one shot against the Cardinals, and Matt Adams unloaded to give St. Louis a 4-3 lead in the eighth inning of Game 2.
The Giants seemed to think Strickland was tipping his pitches, and he looked great in a one-two-three ninth on Tuesday night in Kansas City. After Game 1 he was asked a question about how Madison Bumgarner and the relievers (Strickland and Javier Lopez) kept the Royals running game under wraps. Strickland’s comment was pretty innocuous when taken in the context of what he meant (a compliment to Bumgarner), but it was the kind of quote that teams generally don’t want their rookie relievers to utter when the media swarms are this large.
“Well obviously, if (they) don’t hit it, they can’t run,” said Strickland. “So (Bumgarner) did an unbelievable job there.”
Whether or not the Royals heard that quote, wrote it down and pinned it to their bulletin board (if the Royals still have bulletin boards — the Giants display the lineup, weather, important times and the day’s umpires on a flat screen in their clubhouse), Strickland upped the verbal ante tonight after another nightmarish outing.
Strickland put his stamp on Game 2’s never ending sixth inning with a wild pitch that moved runners to second and third, before Salvador Perez crushed a double into the gap in left-center and Omar Infante hit a homer to left. Strickland yelled at himself as Perez and Infante rounded the bases. Perez seemed to think Strickland was yelling at him, which led to Strickland shouting this at Perez as the Royals catcher stood at home plate.
Strickland: “I got caught up and didn’t control my emotions like I should have. My emotions got the best of me. I’m not too proud of that.”
— Alex Pavlovic (@AlexPavlovic) October 23, 2014
It’s tough to fathom how Bochy could use Strickland again in a high leverage spot. Or any spot, really. But the Giants can’t count on Jean Machi either, and Tim Lincecum’s back tightened up in what looked like a series-changing appearance after the game was well in hand. The Giants might need to use an injury replacement for Lincecum, but one has to wonder if the damage has already been done in regard to Strickland.