In the top of the second inning, events conspired against Matt Moore, and the bases were loaded. There were two seeing-eye base hits that got past Brandon Crawford, and then Crawford made an error.
Is that a sentence that’s ever been written?
Is it a sentence that will ever be written again?
Probably not. And yet Moore pitched around it, striking out oh fine you don’t care about this whatever FINE we’ll just move on to the brawl you filthy animals.
The story of the game was that Hunter Strickland hit Bryce Harper with a fastball, Harper hit a gopher in Fremont with his helmet, and Jeff Samardzija hit Michael Morse with his everything.
It was chaos, even if the larger story should be something like:
The Giants lost, 3-0, and they looked bad doing it. They were 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position, and they were still shut out.
But, no, we’re talking about Hunter Strickland and Bryce Harper, as if the Giants aren’t bad at winning baseball games. So let’s dig in.
Hunter Strickland suggests that he was just pitching inside, and that the pitch got away from him. This is absurd, of course. Of the 1,217 fastballs Strickland has thrown in the majors, Brooks Baseball has just a couple that went where he threw one to Harper:
It was a purpose pitch. The purpose was to let Harper know that Strickland still remembered what happened in 2014.
Which, come on, man. I don’t remember what happened two weeks ago. But, fine, let’s say that during the 2014, I really got into it with a Nationals blogger. Say that some goof spent the whole series telling me that I have no talent and got lucky by getting in with SB Nation at just the right time, which is technically true, but it’s against the unwritten rules to mention that.
Imagine me getting upset, here, in 2017 about that. Like the best plunking wouldn’t be Brandon Belt in the 18th and a championship three weeks later. It would be more effective for me not to say a damned thing in that scenario.
Harper on Strickland: "he has a World Series ring he can look at as much as he wants every night."— Chelsea Janes (@chelsea_janes) May 29, 2017
That’s the only point that matters. As far as unwritten rules go, it’s exceedingly dumb to hang on to a slight from three years ago.
Just imagine how good Strickland would have felt if he struck Harper out on three pitches. If you need a fallback option, you could always tackle him before the ball lands in the water again. Take the chance and get the best revenge possible.
So the whole thing was stupid, even by the standards of most baseball fights. Buster Posey wasn’t interested, for example.
You might read or listen to opinions from adults who will suggest that this is a dereliction of duty, that Posey should have tackled Harper or gone out and thrown punches. This is nature’s way of telling you that these people should be ignored, and you should be grateful. Posey was probably thinking, “Wait, was that about 2014? Were cars even invented back then?” like the rest of us. Good for him.
Before putting all of the blame on Strickland, let’s quickly note that Harper throwing his batting helmet is extremely dumb and dangerous, and the only thing worse than that was him throwing the helmet like it was covered in Crisco.
But now Buster Posey is going to get hit with a baseball. Even though he was the guy standing still and saying, “Dude,” he’s the Giants’ best player, so he’ll get hit when the Nationals’ best player is hit on purpose. And Michael Morse and Jeff Samardzija sure looked like they messed each other up:
Bryce Harper goes after Hunter Strickland after an HBP and then Mike Morse and Jeff Samardzija are collateral damage. pic.twitter.com/jton90huP5— Nick Bromberg (@NickBromberg) May 29, 2017
It was the kind of fight that makes me anxious to follow Twitter for the next two days. Because it seems almost inevitable that we’ll get a surprise DL trip from someone tangentially involved, who suddenly develops concussion symptoms or a concussion of the shoulder. And it didn’t need to happen.
I will say that I’ve been following baseball fights for a long time, and I’m having a hard time remembering one quite like this where the hometown fans erred on the side of their own player messing up. The contrast is even more stunning when you consider that Bryce Harper was the other participant, and even his mom probably can’t handle him opening his mouth for longer than three seconds. While the helmet-throwing could have been ugly with a little skill, it’s worth noting that there’s no way it would have hurt more than a baseball could have, which is why I’m against purpose pitches of all stripes. Strickland looked worse overall, even if he was the one who landed the best (open-handed) punch.
It was also embarrassing to watch Strickland get carried off the field by his teammates, none of whom remembered a lot of details about Harper hitting a home run in 2014:
It took Kontos, Mac and Pence to get Strickland off the field: pic.twitter.com/TP9tETsME3— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) May 29, 2017
Note that because Pence was on the DL and went onto the field, he’ll get a fine. Hopefully he won’t get a suspension. Because of a homer staredown in 2014. The year the Giants won the World Series.
While I’ve seen people suggesting that Strickland should get released or traded, I’m not there. It’s not like Madison Bumgarner hasn’t acted like a jackass over the years, and if you’re not in favor of him getting released or traded, you’re setting a sliding scale based on a player’s importance, which seems gross.
It was just annoying. And it wouldn’t have been a huge deal if Harper didn’t charge the mound, if he did that thing where he walked out a few yards before everyone rushed the field and grumble-pushed each other around, so it’s not like there isn’t blame to share.
Harper’s run eventually scored, of course. I’ll let Bruce Bochy describe that one, from his post-game press conference:
That cost us a run, by the way. That could have played a huge role in this game.
Pretty sure that’s a manager who isn’t exactly geeked with how everything transpired. If you want the real story of this game, it goes like this: The Giants can’t hit, to the point where a brilliant start from their starter wasn’t enough, and they got predictably hosed when they gave away a run for free. Oh, and then there was a brawl with punches landed and fuzzy mountains colliding.
I’d be cool if the Giants decided to play better, really. They can fight the world once they’ve figured that part out.
I do have one baseball-related point to make. In the seventh inning, with the Giants down by two and Mac Williamson due up, Bruce Bochy sent Michael Morse up to pinch-hit.
This is what’s known as “losing confidence in a player, wholly and without question.” Remember that Williamson hits right-handers better than left-handers, and that Morse has traditional platoon splits. Unless there’s a hidden injury that we don’t know about, the only reason to hit Morse there was because you figured Williamson was a liability.
Not only that, but Morse stayed in the game at first base, with Brandon Belt going to left. So not only was Bochy thinking that Williamson has no chance compared to Morse, but he was willing to make the defense substantially worse to upgrade the team’s chances in that single at-bat.
Morse struck out, of course, possibly because 2014 was a long time ago. Which seems to be a theme of the day.
The Giants’ single-single-fart offense didn’t work again, Denard Span struck out on a pitch that hit him, and there were a bunch of weird caught-stealings that hurt their chances to win. But we’ll remember the fight. Bryce Harper charged the mound and winged his helmet after getting hit by a pitch in response to something from 2014, which is just the dumbest thing.
I’ll tell you what, though. Rick Ankiel better not get comfortable in the box the next time he’s facing the Giants. The gauntlet has been thrown. Take notice.
Nelson Cruz, you know what you did. Game 5. Your time is gonna come.
Don’t even get me started on Kolten Wong.