The Outlaw Hunter Strickland
When I hear the name Strickland, the first thing that comes to mind is that school principal in Back to the Future. You know the one. He’s the bald killjoy who seems determined to ruin the day of our time-travelling hero, Marty McFly.
San Francisco Giants relief pitcher Hunter Strickland is a different kind of Strickland altogether. Hunter Strickland is no authority figure. Rather, he resembles a Clint Eastwood anti-hero from an old Western. Maybe it’s the mean look, the narrow eyes or the long, cold stare towards home plate. One could well imagine that same icy stare across a crowded saloon or down a dusty, deserted street in a one horse town.
The staredown is an important trait for a man who may be seen as a future closer for the Giants. His ability to throw a fastball at 100 m.p.h or just under is also a useful skill to have in the locker.
Strickland was called up to the Major Leagues by the Giants on 1 September, aged 25 (he’s since turned 26). He pitched in just nine regular season games during the final month of the season – not allowing a run – before making his postseason debut in the National League Division Series against the Washington Nationals.
In six consecutive appearances for the Giants – encompassing the last three games of the regular season and his three NLDS outings against the Nats – Strickland did this:
22 Sep vs Dodgers: First career save
25 Sep vs Padres: First career hold
27 Sep vs Padres: First career win
3 Oct vs Nationals: First career postseason hold
4 Oct vs Nationals: First career postseason save (longest postseason game in MLB history)
7 Oct vs Nationals: First career postseason win
I have no idea if anyone has done all that before but I’m pretty sure it must be unique. Strickland’s first postseason assignment was to strike out Ian Desmond with the bases loaded to end the 7th inning of game 1. He threw at 99, 98, 99 and 100 m.p.h during that at bat. On the flipside, he did allow a couple of big home runs to Bryce Harper in the series, the second one giving up the lead in game 4, although I never understand why they class it as a blown save when it’s a 7th inning guy who obviously isn’t going to pitch through to the end. Hunter Strickland may not be the finished article, but it’s all part of the learning curve for the new stranger round these parts.