KANSAS CITY –- It was a yelling match at home plate that cleared the benches and bullpens in the sixth inning of Game 2 on Wednesday.
But Royals catcher Salvador Perez said the tension between him and Giants reliever Hunter Strickland started while Perez was standing on second base after his two-run double earlier that inning.
“When I got to second after I hit a double, he started to look at me,” Perez said after Kansas City’s 7-2 victory evened the World Series at one game apiece.
Perez’s drive to left-center put the Royals up 5-2 in the sixth. Then things boiled over when Omar Infante followed with a two-run homer off Strickland.
As Perez rounded third and was trotting home, he and Strickland began jawing enough to where home plate umpire Eric Cooper had to restrain Perez and guide him back toward his dugout after he crossed home plate.
Afterward, as he fielded questions from a mob of reporters surrounding his locker, Perez seemed amused by the whole incident.
“I got close to home plate, he looked at me,” Perez said. “So I asked him, ‘What are you looking at me for? I didn’t hit a homer. Omar hit a homer.’ I don’t know what’s going on, but forget about that. That’s part of the game. We’ll go to San Francisco and see what happens.”
Perez added that he didn’t think the incident would carry over as this best-of-seven series continues Friday at AT&T Park.
Infante said he was confused by what was going on as he reached home plate after his homer. But the flare-up caused players to spill out of both dugouts as well as the bullpens in the outfield.
Royals closer Greg Holland said he took his cues from Giants players that he saw running toward the action.
“I saw some black pullovers come out of the dugout, I figured it was time to get down there,” Holland reasoned.
Though Strickland admitted his emotions got the best of him, perhaps it’s no surprise that Perez was at the center of such a heated moment from the Kansas City side. His manager, Ned Yost, talked before the game about Perez being an inspirational leader in the clubhouse. Think of him as the Royals’ answer to Hunter Pence.
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“He loves playing baseball,” Yost said of Perez. “He loves being around his teammates. He loves rallying the guys.”
It didn’t take a benches-clearing incident to show the Royals had more fire Wednesday than in Game 1, when the Giants administered a 7-1 whipping. After Gregor Blanco became the first player since 2007 to lead off a World Series game with a home run Wednesday, Royals rookie starter Yordano Ventura settled down and held the Giants to just one more run through 5 1/3 innings.
Then Kansas City broke through against the Giants’ bullpen in their five-run sixth to snap a 2-2 tie.
“We faced a tough pitcher (Tuesday) night in Bumgarner, but the guys didn’t hang their heads when they came in,” Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain said. “We understood that we just flat-out lost. We got our butts kicked. But we found a way to bounce back.”