Holliday finds himself at center of it all in loss
Hard slide, fielding miscue, missed chances with bat part of veteran's night
SAN FRANCISCO -- About the best thing that a competitor can ask for is the opportunity to be in the middle of things. Give a big leaguer the chance to have an impact on a playoff game, and he'll gladly take it.
The downside is that sometimes it turns out like Matt Holliday's night on Monday. The Cardinals star found himself in the thick of one key situation after another, and none of them turned out particularly well for Holliday or his team. Nearly every turning point in the Cards' 7-1 loss to the Giants in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series included Holliday.
They say the ball will find you, and that's rarely been as true as it was in Game 2 for Holliday. It found him in the field, on the bases and at the plate.
Holliday was, of course, at the middle of the most talked-about play of the night, when his takeout slide on a potential double-play ball sent him tumbling over second base and into Giants infielder Marco Scutaro. The second baseman later left the game due to injury, and Holliday was the target of angry Giants fans for the rest of the evening. It was actually the one key play where the result on the field, at least, favored the Cardinals -- Holliday's aggressive slide did prevent a double play.
But that doesn't mean the move was well-received, and even Holliday admitted he could have done differently.
"In hindsight, I wish I would have started my slide a step earlier," Holliday said. "But it's happening fast, and you're trying to get to his lower half so that he can't turn the double play. Obviously, I didn't want to land on top of him. I hope he's OK. I know him. He's a good guy. And I wasn't, obviously, trying to do anything more than keep us out of a double play."
The play didn't sit well in the San Francisco clubhouse, but some of the comments were at least measured, even if the Giants were irritated.
"I think Matt's a genuine person," said reliever Jeremy Affeldt, who played with Holliday in Colorado. "I think he's a hard competitor, and that's probably why he slid so hard. He slid late, and that's unfortunate. But he's trying to break up a double play. To me, you see a guy who's not malicious, he's not yelling at people. He goes out there and he tries to focus on what he's doing, and I think that he was just trying to play hard. For us, it was probably just a little late, in my opinion."
In the next half-inning, Scutaro attained some form of baseball justice. With two outs and the bases loaded, he singled to left field. Holliday didn't corral the ball, which skipped further into the outfield. Two runs scored on the hit, and another came home on Holliday's error.
"I just missed it," Holliday said.
Holliday acknowledged that Scutaro's injury lingered in his mind, though he didn't use it as an excuse for the rest of his game. Still, the rest of his game wasn't much more satisfying.
Holliday singled in the first inning, but in each of his next two at-bats, he was unable to advance a runner in scoring position. Each time facing Ryan Vogelsong, Holliday popped up with a runner on second and no outs in the third, and he did so again with a man on second and two outs in the fifth.
"He pitched well," Holliday said. "He pitched really well. He's tough when he's locating his fastball. He's got a little extra giddyup on his fastball that sometimes is hard to adjust to."
After the game, Holliday was the most sought-after interview topic in the Cards' clubhouse, not the favorite position for a player who prefers to keep quiet. But that seems to be how it went for Holliday all night. He was in the middle of everything, whether he wanted to be or not.
Matthew Leach is a writer for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.