TODAY'S PAPER
53° Good Afternoon
53° Good Afternoon
SportsColumnistsDavid Lennon

Hunter Strickland loses his cool as Giants fall to Royals in Game 2

San Francisco Giants pitcher Hunter Strickland watches as

San Francisco Giants pitcher Hunter Strickland watches as Kansas City Royals Omar Infante runs around the bases after hitting a two-run home run during the sixth inning of Game 2 of baseball's World Series Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014, in Kansas City, Mo. Photo Credit: AP / Matt Slocum

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - We thought the Giants were better than this. And not because they lost Game 2 Wednesday night at Kauffman Stadium.

What got our attention was Hunter Strickland's bush-league act after teeing up a two-run homer to Omar Infante -- yes, Omar Infante -- in the sixth inning, when the Royals chose to establish their presence as a team still intent on winning this World Series.

Strickland got involved in a home-plate staredown with Salvador Perez, apparently a continuation of the menacing glare he flashed at the Royals' catcher after his two-run double earlier in the inning.

This was all according to Perez, who seemed genuinely surprised by Strickland's tough-guy routine. Perez and the Royals kept their focus where it should have been -- taking care of business rather than trying to intimidate a player who just lit you up with a laser-double.

"I don't know what happened with that guy," Perez said.

Let's expand that to include the rest of the Giants. Hadn't we been led to believe they were the poised veterans in this matchup? Two titles in four years, Buster Posey as the next face of baseball, Bruce Bochy, dugout mastermind?

If there was a mental edge in this Fall Classic, it belonged to the Giants. The team we expected to unravel figured to be the Royals, the adrenaline-fueled, emotionally-raw underdogs.

That's what made Kansas City's 7-2 win such an upset. The Royals certainly were capable of evening the series, as they did by frattling Jake Peavy and picking apart Bochy's bullpen moves, which blew up in his face.

"Those are the matchups that we were trying to get," Bochy said. "It just didn't work out."

Bottom line, No Respect Ned managed a better game than Bochy. Yost got the 52/3 innings he could from rookier Yordano Ventura then went right to the Herrera-Davis-Holland trifecta. But the sixth is also when Bochy appeared to be caught flat-footed. Despite the tie score, he stuck with Travis Ishikawa -- the converted first baseman with a minus arm -- in leftfield and got burned. After the first two Royals reached, Bochy called on ground-ball specialist Jean Machi to face Billy Butler.

No one has hit into more double plays than Butler (160) since 2008, and with Machi cranking out grounders at a 52 percent rate, this figured to be a layup for the Giants. But Machi fell behind 2-and-0 to Butler, who then smoked the fastball he was sitting on right into the lap of Ishikawa.

The liner was hit so hard that a better defender, with a stronger arm, might have had a play on Cain at the plate. But Ishikawa's lollipop had no effect.

"That's his lack of experience as far as charging the ball and getting rid of it," Bochy said. "That takes time."

Things got worse. One of the last times we saw Strickland, he was serving up a splash homer to Bryce Harper at AT&T Park, the second of two moonshots Harper dented him for during that Division Series.

After what happened Wednesday night, it's worth noting that Harper had a shouting match with Strickland that night by the Bay. Evidently, Strickland has a thin skin and Infante's bomb put him in a lousy mood. Perez and Strickland exchanged words over what the pitcher said was a "miscommunication."

"I was mad at myself," said Strickland, who has allowed five homers this postseason. "I got caught up in it and didn't control my emotions like I should of."

Bochy, who went out to calm Strickland, had to wonder what the heck was going on. When Gregor Blanco led off the game with a long home run we figured the tone had been set. Cue the brooms for AT&T Park. The dawn of a Giants dynasty was only a few more days away.

So much for that. We didn't recognize the team wearing orange-and-black Wednesday night in Game 2. Or maybe we just underestimated the one in blue.

Comments

We're revamping our Comments section. Learn more and share your input.

New York Sports