SAN FRANCISCO — They are sensitive about hard slides here at AT&T Park, and Matt Holliday of the St. Louis Cardinals gave the San Francisco Giants reason to pause Monday night in Game 2 of the NLCS by sliding about as hard as one can into second base.
Holliday's take-out slide of Marco Scutaro in the first inning didn't get anybody seriously hurt, just scared, especially after Scutaro lay on a ground for a few moments to collect himself. On video replays, you can see Scutaro's left foot get caught in the dirt beyond second base. It was a good way to injure a knee, but Scutaro got up shortly and hit a single in his next at-bat. He hit a three-run single in the fourth inning (aided by Holliday error in left field), but Scutaro later left the game in order to have X-rays taken on his left hip. Manager Bruce Bochy announced after the game that X-rays were negative.
Holliday's slide appeared to be legal, though opinions differ on that. He started it just before reaching the second-base bag, touched the bag with his left leg and tackled Scutaro without leaving the baseline.
Watch this animation from the Fox broadcast, thanks to @cjzero
The slide was effective, helping to prevent the Giants from turning a double play on Allen Craig's grounder to short. But it also was brutal and dangerous — evoking the infamous slide by Scott Cousins that took out Giants catcher Buster Posey and broke his leg in 2011.
UPDATE: After the game, Holliday said the play weighed on his mind, as he had "no ill intent" toward Scutaro and is not a dirty player:
"In hindsight, I wish I would have started my slide a step earlier," Holliday said. "But it was happening fast, and you're trying to get to his lower half so they 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. I obviously trying to do any more than keeping us out of a double play."
Holliday said he asked Scutaro on the spot if he were OK, but Scutaro wasn't talking. Holliday said he had reached out again to check on Scutaro's condition.
"I'm not a dirty player," Holliday said. "I felt bad. When a guy has to leave the game, it bothers me. I hope he's OK. I'm a human being; I care about other people. I hope he's not injured."
He relayed a similar message to Posey, the Giants catcher, when Holliday came up to bat again the third inning. Holliday also said Posey would relay the message.
Holliday wasn't playing dirty on purpose, and the umpires didn't call him out for an illegal slide — whatever the nebulous rules are about that. So, "legal" is one thing. But should it be allowable to tackle someone on a baseball field? That's a question still left unresolved by Cousins/Posey and every other crash at home plate. Or, sometimes, second base. Football is a great sport, but its tactics don't belong in Major League Baseball.
"It looked like it was pretty late," Giants pitcher Matt Cain told Joe Buck of Fox Sports during an in-game interview. " ... We're just happy Scutaro is all right."
Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford, who fed Scutaro with the throw, was even more certain.
"It was late," Crawford said. "It was hard and late. I'm sure it wasn't ... dirty intent or anything like that. I'm sure he wasn't trying to hurt him or anything. He was just trying to break up a double play. He was just a little later than he should have been."
So, should umpires have stepped in and called Holliday out?
"I don't know what the rule is," Crawford said. "I know you're supposed to be able to reach the base and he reached it — he slid on top of it. But I don't know what the rule is."
The Giants never attempted any payback against Holliday, or anyone else in the lineup, and the Cardinals seemed to go out of their way to diffuse the tension by avoiding more hard slides into second. Maybe that was coincidence. It will be interesting to see what Cain, the starter for Game 3, does Tuesday afternoon in St. Louis.
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