SAN FRANCISCO -- The funniest moment Wednesday night at Oracle Park came in the bottom of the third inning. Young St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Johan Oviedo was extremely wild in the first couple of innings and exchanged words with Mike Yastrzemski in the second, but the back-and-forth seemed to fire him up and he struck out two in the third, easily his best inning of the night.
The 23-year-old puffed his chest out and walked slowly to the visiting dugout. He was feeling himself -- and then his name was called out.
First base umpire Adam Hamari was asking Oviedo for a glove check, and the confident walk was halted. Oviedo took his hat and glove off and handed them over, then showed the inside of his belt.
That has become a part of baseball in 2021, but what you don't see too often anymore -- especially from the Giants -- is any jawing. The Madison Bumgarner Era is over and this is a roster that prefers to quietly go about its business, but Yastrzemski found himself in the middle of an odd moment in the second inning of a 5-2 win.
He had doubled to give the Giants the lead, but when he was dancing around on second, Oviedo turned and started yelling at him. Yastrzemski, usually about as mild mannered as it gets, yelled back.
Both players later said it was all a misunderstanding. Oviedo and the Cardinals thought Yastrzemski was relaying signs to hitter Wilmer Flores from second base. Yastrzemski said he had "zero clue" what was coming but he saw how paranoid the Cardinals were getting and decided to lean into it, increasing his movements to make Oviedo lose focus and hopefully throw Flores a mistake pitch.
"I figured that they thought that I was doing it then, so I was like, I'm just going to kind of keep rolling with it," Yastrzemski said. "It was something that I thought was going to be something to take advantage of, whether it's just moving around or changing whatever you're doing out there to make them think one thing when in turn it's not the case. It's a mental game out there, a little bit of cat and mouse that we all play from time to time."
Yastrzemski's moves worked to an extent. The Cardinals changed signs multiple times while Yastrzemski was on second base and Oviedo kept taking a small laminated card out of his back pocket to check the new ones. He finally looked back at Yastrzemski and told him to "shut the f--k up."
"At that moment, the way (Flores) was taking my pitches, I was like, 'OK, he's got to have (the pitches),' " Oviedo told Cardinals reporters. "That was what I thought and I got upset."
Yastrzemski said he was surprised when Oviedo turned and yelled at him. He motioned for the pitcher to get back on the mound and said "throw a pitch."
"I didn't want it to get to that extent. I just wanted him to throw a fastball down the middle so Flo could hit a homer," Yastrzemski said. "But that's where it got. It's obviously a misunderstanding on both sides. It's no harm, no foul."
Yastrzemski certainly got in Oviedo's head, but it didn't lead to anything substantive. Flores got a 3-2 fastball down the heart of the plate and flied out to right.
The Giants had eight walks on the night but probably didn't need any help. Oviedo had little command anyway and the Cardinals have 35 more walks than any other pitching staff in the league this season. But it all led to an interesting back-and-forth, the rare spicy moment for a Giants team that just chugs along and keeps quietly piling up wins. Alex Wood was brilliant on the other side and Darin Ruf put the game away with a late two-run homer.
That led the Giants to their 54th handshake line of the season and put them 1 1/2 games up in the NL West. A few minutes later, Yastrzemski smiled as he explained the most interesting sequence of the night.
"You've got to sell it sometimes," he said of his moves on second base. "We're in the entertainment business ... It's like we're center stage at times, so hopefully the focus was on me instead of on Flo. It's just another way you can try to impact the game from the basepaths to try and get your guy a better pitch to hit."