Giants’ bullpen melts down in 7-2 loss to Royals
KANSAS CITY, Missouri (AP) — Giants manager Bruce Bochy signaled to his bullpen and got no relief. Over and over.
While the Kansas City Royals showed off their late-inning heat, San Francisco’s relievers melted down.
Given a sixth-inning tie to preserve, Jean Machi allowed Billy Butler’s go-ahead single. Rookie Hunter Strickland then yielded Salvador Perez’s two-run double and Omar Infante’s two-run homer in the Giants’ 7-2 loss to Kansas City on Wednesday night, which tied the World Series at one game apiece.
“Those are the matchups that we were trying to get,” Bochy said. “It just didn’t work out. It was a tough inning for us. The bullpen had a hard time.”
The lasting image of the night for the Giants was of Strickland shouting and getting into a confrontation with Perez, then being removed from the game.
“I was just frustrated with myself. I let the team down,” said Strickland, who has allowed five postseason homers after giving up three during the regular season — all at Double-A. “My emotions got to me.”
San Francisco’s bullpen had the fifth-best ERA in the majors during the regular season at 3.01, while Kansas City was 10th at 3.30. And while Santiago Casilla, Jeremy Affeldt, Javier Lopez and Sergio Romo are among the seven players who have played in all three of the Giants’ postseason runs since 2010, there have been signs of unsteadiness.
Jake Peavy had retired 10 in a row before Lorenzo Cain’s soft single to center leading off the sixth. Peavy walked Eric Hosmer before Machi came in, fell behind Butler 2-0 and allowed a go-ahead single to left.
Lopez retired Alex Gordon on a flyout, and Bochy brought in Strickland, who gave up Bryce Harper’s third-deck home run in the NL Division Series opener at Washington and a splash shot to Harper that landed between kayaks in McCovey Cove during Game 4. Harper shouted at Strickland that afternoon. This time, the pitcher did the yelling.
He threw a wild pitch that advanced the runners to second and third, then followed with a 97 mph fastball that Perez sent to the wall in left-center on three hops.
Two pitches later, Infante turned on a 98 mph fastball that ran back over the plate, and Perez deposited it into the left-field bullpen. Strickland shouted at himself, which caught Perez’s attention and caused him to shout back.
“I’m not going to back down from anything,” Strickland said, explaining why he in turn screamed at Perez.
The benches emptied. No punches were thrown.
Strickland was replaced by Jeremy Affeldt, making the Giants the third team to use five pitchers in a Series inning after a pair of teams in Game 7s, Baltimore in 1979 and St. Louis in 1985.
“I think it was just frustration on his part,” Bochy said. “It’s intense out there. He’s an intense kid, and it probably got away from him a little bit. ... It’s a big stage. A lot of emotions are going to be shown in these games, and the kid was frustrated. He’ll be back out there.”
By that time, the game had gotten away from San Francisco, along with the chance to become the first World Series team since the 1999 New York Yankees to open with a pair of road wins.
Tim Lincecum — remember him? — got in the game in the seventh and left with tightness in his left lower back while pitching to Perez with two outs in the eighth. The two-time NL Cy Young Award winner was demoted to the bullpen in August because of ineffectiveness and hadn’t pitched since the regular-season finale on Sept. 28.
“We’re just going to treat it, see how it feels tomorrow,” Lincecum said. “But right now it feels pretty stiff.”
Unlike two years ago against Detroit, the Giants won’t sweep.
Now the Series is even as San Francisco returns home for the weekend.
“We knew coming in,” Michael Morse said, “it wasn’t going to be easy.”