-- 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."
* The game story delves more into the baseball action of that sixth inning. The Giants’ bullpen faltered and the Royals’ did its job, with the result that this Series now shifts to AT&T Park tied at a game apiece. Stepping back from a frustrating loss, several players and Bochy said afterward they could have done worse than a split in Kansas City.
"You’d like to get greedy, but we know it’s going to be a tough series," Bochy said. "It was a tight game up until the sixth there. But that’s the way it’s going to be, I think. With their pitching and our pitching and the way both teams play, we are going to have a fight, I think, every game."
"We talked about it the other day, about taking one of two games here is always a good thing, especially against these guys in this kind of atmosphere," Lincecum said. "I know we have three games at home, we’re looking at those as opportunities to kind of take it."
* The notebook leads with Lincecum, who made his first appearance of the postseason -- and pitched well, until he felt his back seize up on a pitch to Perez. Lincecum threw one more pitch before deciding it wasn’t worth the risk of continuing. He will be re-evaluated Thursday.
Lincecum retired his first five hitters -- the first he’s faced since Sept. 28 -- and said, "It felt good to throw all my pitches and get a couple strikeouts here and there, just to let me know that my stuff’s still there." That was the encouraging part -- but it was tempered by the way his outing ended.
"I think it’s a combination of frustration and anger, to finally get out there and then hurt yourself on one pitch," Lincecum said. "But I’m thankful for the opportunity to get out there again. I’m just going to try to treat this and try to … stay positive."
Lincecum did allow for one light-hearted moment in a fairly subdued Giants clubhouse. When he entered the game, it was the middle of the seventh inning, and he jogged to the mound so quickly that he wound up standing alongside the line of umpires during the performance of "God Bless America."
"I just forgot that it was the seventh inning stretch," Lincecum said. "And I was like, ‘All right, I guess I’ll just hang out with these guys.’"
* While Bochy might have some thinking to do about his bullpen, there was this quote from Royals manager Ned Yost after the game:
"My concern innings, if you will, before the game, are the fifth and the sixth, if I’ve got to mix and match that. But once we get past the sixth inning, my guesswork is done."
You saw why Wednesday night. Kelvin Herrera entered in the sixth inning and threw his first pitch at 101 miles per hour past Brandon Belt. Wade Davis replaced Herrera for the eighth and retired the Giants in order with two strikeouts. And closer Greg Holland came in for the ninth and struck out the side around a two-out single by Brandon Crawford.
It reaffirmed something that was repeated often before the Series began: You do not want to fall behind the Royals going into the seventh inning. And the Giants did just that.
"You’ve got your work cut when you get five runs down," Bochy said. "That’s an uphill climb against this pen."
* The teams will both hold workouts in San Francisco on Thursday, at which time there should be an update on Lincecum. For now, we have a Series on our hands -- as Royals designated hitter Billy Butler said following Game 2.
"Especially at home, I felt like definitely it was a must-win for us," Butler said.
"They were playing really well, and they continue to play well. But we showed them that we have fight in us."