AT&T PARK — Hunter Strickland ignited an epic benches-clearing brawl in the eighth inning of the San Francisco Giants’ 3-0 loss to the Washington Nationals on Monday afternoon.
Strickland, who famously served up a pair of booming home runs to Harper in the 2014 National League Division Series, plunked the Nats right-fielder in the hip with a 98-mph fastball, prompting the 2015 NL MVP to point his bat at the reliever before storming the mound.
“It’s unfortunate. You have an incident like this, it looks bad. It does,” manager Bruce Bochy conceded after the loss. “And there’s no question about that.”
ICYMI – Bryce Harper and Hunter Strickland throw punches, benches clear after Strickland hits Harper with a 98 mph fastball. pic.twitter.com/rRpUbusLCF
— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) May 29, 2017
As Harper raced out, he threw his helmet — errantly — in the direction of Strickland before the pair proceeded to trade punches and their teammates poured onto the field from their respective dugouts.
“It’s go time,” Strickland explained, when asked what was going through his mind as Harper charged. “You’ve got to protect yourself and stand your own ground.”
Strickland claimed that he was simply trying to go inside on Harper, but acknowledged that discipline is looming based on the optics of the situation.
“Yeah. I can see. I can see how that [history] stands in people’s minds,” Strickland said. “But that’s the past. Like, I said, I left the ball over the plate a couple times — he’s taken advantage of that. So, obviously, I’d rather miss in than over the plate.”
In the midst of the kerfuffle, Michael Morse and Jeff Samardzija collided violently as they ran into the fray from opposite sides. Morse insisted afterward that he was 100 percent, but Bochy recognized that the Giants were fortunate to have made it through the scuffle unscathed — at least for now.
“You have two guys who probably don’t care for each other much, so it’s unfortunate. It is,” Bochy said. “It was a pretty good pile, so we’re probably lucky somebody on either side doesn’t get hurt in that situation.”
Buster Posey waited until Harper had already reached the mound before leaving his position behind the plate, remaining on the periphery of the scene throughout the brawl.
“After it happened, I kind of saw Harper point and then the next thing you know he’s going out after him,” Posey explained. “And there’s some big guys tumbling around on the ground. You see Mike Morse is about as big as they come and he was getting knocked around like a pinball. So, it’s dangerous to get in there sometimes.”
It took three Giants — George Kontos, Mac Williamson and Hunter Pence (currently on the disabled list) — to drag Strickland off the field.
“I was pretty fired up, to be honest with you,” Strickland said. “But that’s just adrenaline and it’s part of the game.”
The dustup — which resulted in Strickland’s first ever ejection and Harper’s ninth — overshadowed what was a stellar afternoon for starter Matt Moore and another sluggish showing for the offense.
“What got lost in all this is I thought Moore pitched a nice ballgame against a tough lineup and he gave us a chance,” Bochy said. “We just couldn’t do much with their starter. [Tanner] Roark was good and that’s a tough one to lose when you get a quality start like we did from Moore.”
The left-hander held the highest-scoring offense in baseball to a pair of runs in his seven frames, but the Giants were unable to find a breakthrough against Roark, enduring their second shutout in four days.
Núñez under concussion evaluation, Calixte on standby
After the loss, Bochy said he’s hopeful that Eduardo Núñez will avoid the 7-day concussion disabled list, but super-utility man Orlando Calixte is already with the Giants in case a move needs to be made.
While Calixte isn’t officially part of the club, Bochy sounded excited by the 25-year-old’s potential.
“He’s played a good center field there [in Triple-A],” Bochy said. “He’s played right field. He’s played everywhere there — all over the infield, short, second, third. He’s done a good job wherever they’ve put him. He’s been swinging the bat well for them.”
Calixte was hitting .287 with eight homers runs for the Sacramento River Cats. Half of his long balls came in the past 10 games as he posted a .385 average.