This weekend, the Giants were officially eliminated from contention in the NL West, and they’ll soon be eliminated from the NL wild card race as well. No surprise there. After all, they’re currently vying for the worst record in all of baseball, depending on how the White Sox and Phillies do the rest of the season.
But Sunday’s game was awful in its own right, and I’m talking about Hunter Strickland.
After winning the first two games of their latest series – against the hapless Phillies – the Giants lost the third game and were hoping to come away with an even series by taking Sunday’s matchup. In fact, they had a 2-1 lead, under Madison Bumgarner, going into the top of the 8th inning on Sunday when reliever Hunter Strickland came into the game and quickly lost it, allowing five consecutive Phillies hits on five consecutive fastballs.
A few minutes later, in the bottom of the eighth, catcher Buster Posey lost his cool (if you can call it that – it’s all relative) when he was hit in the back by Phillies pitcher Hector Neris and, on his way to first base, looked directly at Neris and asked him, “Did you do that on purpose? Did you do that on purpose?”
Granted, Posey had been beleaguered the entire game. He narrowly missed being beaned in the early innings, his hand was hurt on a tagout he made in the top of the eighth, and he was called out at the plate in the third on a hard and probably technically illegal tag by Phillies catcher Jorge Alfaro. So he was already frustrated. And I’m sure the entire losing season has taken its toll on his patience.
Strickland is no slouch. He has four good pitches. But for some reason he didn’t use them in this game.
I don’t think anyone believes that Buster called for five consecutive fastballs.
I think that Hunter made that decision himself, for reasons no one can fathom. I guess he thought that he could make good decision about what to pitch – everyone else (including his catcher) be damned. Maybe he defiantly continued to throw fast balls, even after the fans started booing, out of a bizarre sense of pride or just plain arrogance.
I admit that I’ve had negative feelings about Strickland ever since Game 1 of the 2014
Division Series between the Giants and the Nationals. The Giants had a 3-0 lead going into the 7th when Bruce Bochy pulled pitcher Jake Peavy – who had a shutout going – and brought in Strickland, who allowed back-to-back homers by Bryce Harper and Asdrubal Cabrera.
That encounter was the catalyst for the ridiculous, childish incident in May of this year when Strickland deliberately slammed Harper with a fastball and the two hotheads got into a major brawl. Michael Morse’s career ended when he left the ensuing scrum with a concussion. Posey didn’t protect Strickland in the fight, which was so uncharacteristic of him that it made us realize that Strickland was not exactly a clubhouse favorite.
To sum it up, tensions rise when Strickland is on the field.
So he needs to go.
Strickland has been a moderately reliable reliever this year. His breaking balls have improved, which allows him to mix his pitches more and be a little more formidable on the mound. His ERA of 2.28 is better than last year’s 3.10 and his K’s-per-9 are up slightly, although his walks per 9 are way up this year (4.94 as opposed to 2.80).
But he has a tendency to lose focus when he gets rattled, and that’s simply not an asset.
If he’s going to ignore catchers, start fights, and lose his cool in crucial games, all because of his hubris, his stats are going to be meaningless when games are on the line.
Can we just run him out of town?