There is a concerning trend developing with Hunter Strickland: the stare down post-home run ball.
Last night was not the first time it has happened. The Giants rookie reliever glared at Bryce Harper around the bases in Game 1 of the NLDS, doing the same two batters later when Asdrubal Cabrera also took him out. Harper took the heat after his Game 4 homer for hollering on the base paths and from the dugout, however, it was Strickland who again attempted to burn a hole in Harper after he hit that home run. Although the cameras didn’t have such a definitive shot after Matt Adams launched one in the ALCS, it is assumed that Strickland reserved a similar reaction towards Adams.
Fast-forward to Game 2 of the World Series on Wednesday night. Having seen his hard-thrower already serve up four home runs this postseason to left-handed hitters, Bruce Bochy elected to bring in Strickland with two consecutive righties coming to the plate.
The first was Salvador Perez who got to two-strikes then found a gift that he got good extension on and drove it to left-center for a two-run double to put the Royals up by three runs.
Then, after taking a first pitch fastball for a strike, eight-hole hitter, Omar Infante (who hit only 6 HR during the season), sent a 98-mph fastball into the bullpen beyond the leftfield fence, a shot that all but put the game out of reach considering Kansas City’s bullpen. That is when things got fun.
Infante, a veteran and a pro, did nothing out of the ordinary, especially for a home run on that stage, for that guy, in that spot. Again, however, Strickland found it in his duties to make it known that he didn’t like serving up another big postseason homer and started having words with Perez at home plate all while making his way slowly toward the third base line where Infante was finishing his trot.
The bottom line is Strickland needs to get himself in check as his actions do not show well on himself and will quickly garner him a spot alongside A.J. Pierzynski and Alex Rodriguez among the games “most hated.”
Not one of the hitters have shown him up in any way after their home runs. It is fine that he is an intense player – it shows he cares – but you can’t go around screaming at every hitter that takes you out. Hell, his own teammate, Jake Peavy, is one of the most intense in the game but he keeps it mostly to and about himself and not directed at anyone, save for an occasion bad umpire call which apparently can happen from time to time.
With his location, it is possible Strickland just becomes used to giving up the long-ball as the number of hitters that hit one will start adding up quickly. More importantly, though, he needs to look at himself and realize that he is the one putting these pitches on a tee. Learn how to spot your fastball (and mix in a second pitch) and home runs will happen a lot less frequently – just ask Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland.