Giants fired up by Holliday’s slide

Listen, I understand why Giants manager Bruce Bochy is upset.

The Cardinals’ Matt Holliday slid late into Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro, injured Scutaro’s left hip, forced him to eventually leave the game. If Scutaro is unable to return for Game 3, this issue will only become bigger, and the hostilities might only grow.

That said, all those livid with Holliday should have seen him in the Cardinals’ clubhouse after the game, facing waves of reporters, repeatedly expressing remorse. Oh, I know what some of you are thinking — too late. But Holliday said it himself: “I wish I had slid one step earlier.”

Things happen fast, Holliday added, not as an excuse, but as an explanation. The Giants’ Hunter Pence used the same exact phrase in the home clubhouse, not to necessarily exonerate Holliday, but to provide a greater perspective — perspective that too often is lost on matters like this.

I’m sorry, there is only so much anger that can be directed at Holliday. No one ever refers to him as a dirty player, and he wasn’t trying to make a dirty play. Things happen fast. And occasionally, things go wrong.

“You don’t want to see Scutaro or anyone get hurt on a baseball field,” Pence said. “You understand in the circumstance that you’re going to take someone out. You’re going to go hard . . .

“In my opinion, it pumped us up a little bit. But these kinds of things . . . you know Holliday. I don’t think he’s trying to hurt someone. He’s playing the game hard. These things happen.”

The play occurred Monday night in the first inning of the Giants’ 7-1 victory over the Cardinals, which tied the National League Championship Series at one game each. Holliday, trying to break up a double play, plowed into Scutaro, causing a hard, violent collision.

The Giants’ Angel Pagan, saying he “felt a little bit of anger,” responded with a leadoff homer in the bottom half of the inning. And Scutaro remained in the game to deliver the night’s biggest hit, a two-out, two-run, bases-loaded single in the fourth that resulted in a third run when Holliday misplayed the ball for an error in left.

By the sixth, however, Scutaro told Bochy he no longer could move adequately, and Bochy replaced him with Ryan Theriot. X-rays on Scutaro’s hip were negative. He was walking in the clubhouse without a limp, according to one Giants official. But the team sent him for an MRI exam to determine the exact nature of his injury.

Rule 6.05(m) states a batter is out when “a preceding runner shall, in the umpire’s judgment, intentionally interfere with a fielder who is attempting to catch a thrown ball or to throw a ball in an attempt to complete any play.”

The rulebook adds, “The objective of this rule is to penalize the offensive team for deliberate, unwarranted, unsportsmanlike action by the runner in leaving the baseline for the obvious purpose of crashing the pivot man on a double play, rather than trying to reach the base.”

Was Holliday’s play that excessive? It’s a judgment call. But Bochy, perhaps the most outspoken of anyone with the Giants after the game, said Holliday violated the rule.

“I really think they got away with an illegal slide there,” Bochy said. “That rule was changed a while back. And he really didn’t hit dirt until he was past the bag. Marco was behind the bag and got smoked. It’s a shame somebody got hurt because of this.”

Countered Cardinals manager Mike Matheny: “We teach our guys to go hard. Play the game clean, play it hard, not try and hurt anybody. And I hated to see that it ended up that way. That’s not how we play the game. We do go hard, but within the rules.”

Problem was, Holliday started his slide not before he got to the bag, but when he was practically on top of it, his momentum carrying him past the base. Scutaro, who is listed at 185 pounds, is at least 50 pounds lighter than Holliday, who is listed at 235 but said he actually is 250.

The play was regrettable at best, reckless at worst — and Holliday seemed to know it. Giants catcher Buster Posey told reporters that Holliday asked about Scutaro during the game and admitted that he started his slide too late.

“I’m just playing hard out there, trying to keep us out of a double play,” Holliday said. “I hope he’s OK. It happens fast. I weigh 250 pounds. When I get going . . . I kind of landed on him, which I wish wouldn’t have happened. I wasn’t trying to hurt him.”

Theriot, who said he wanted to look at the play more closely before passing judgment, said, “It’s playoff baseball. Guys are going out giving 150 percent. Yeah, it does happen. I mean, I’ve been crushed numerous times.”

Doesn’t mean Holliday slid correctly. Doesn’t mean the Giants will easily forgive. Scutaro, who turns 37 on Oct. 30, is a heart-and-soul player who emerged as one of the Giants’ best hitters after arriving in a trade from the Rockies on July 27. His teammates nicknamed him “Blockbuster” — perfect, considering that he made a bigger impact than any of the players the Dodgers acquired in their actual blockbuster with the Red Sox.

Theriot would be an adequate replacement, but the Giants acquired Scutaro because they wanted someone better. In any case, let’s not get ahead of ourselves — the immediate hope is that Scutaro will be OK. If he’s not, my guess is that Scutaro, an old-school, tough-minded type, will dismiss Holliday’s slide as an unfortunate incident, part of the game.

Things happen. Things happen fast. Things sometimes go awry.