Giants' Stratton relies on sneaky weapon, mows down Nats in Game 1 of DH

Giants' Stratton relies on sneaky weapon, mows down Nats in Game 1 of DH

WASHINGTON D.C. — Chris Stratton's first start this season came with just a few minutes of notice after Johnny Cueto was scratched with an ear infection. His second start was delayed nearly two weeks because of a groin injury that was probably about as real as the roof at Nationals Park. 

When Stratton’s third start was delayed once again, Bruce Bochy approached the rookie right-hander. He was pleased with Stratton’s reaction to being pushed back two days by rain. 

“He’s got a sense of calmness about him,” Bochy said. “He doesn’t get rattled by anything.”

Perhaps there’s a good reason for that. Stratton has a 15-month-old son at home. A couple of days of waiting around in the clubhouse can’t seem that stressful for the 26-year-old. Stratton said he learned his lesson from his previous start, which was pushed back an additional 15 minutes by a pre-game ceremony at AT&T Park. When the rain came Friday, he just sat back in a clubhouse chair and relaxed. 

“You just have to be ready for whatever,” Stratton said. 

The Nationals weren’t ready for him. 

Stratton struck out 10 in one of the better starts of the year for the Giants, leading the way in a 4-2 win on Sunday afternoon. The double-digit strikeout performance was just the fifth of the year for the Giants. The win was the first of the season for Stratton, who is going to get a long audition to be a part of next season’s pitching staff. 

“We were hoping he would get a sense of comfort about him with a consistent starting situation, where he could get on a roll or groove,” Bochy said. “He had good command of all his pitches today and threw some nice pitches with two strikes … the put-away pitches, he executed those well.”

Stratton primarily turned to a curveball that’s a sneaky weapon. It has the highest spin rate of any curve in the game this season, and Stratton threw it 21 times in 6 2/3 innings, getting five swinging strikes. Four of his strikeouts ended with a curveball. Only one of the curveballs Stratton threw resulted in a hit. 

“It’s your traditional 12-to-6 type of breaker and he has good command of it,” Bochy said. “He doesn’t leave it up too often. It’s a very effective pitch for him.”

Stratton mixed in a good slider, too, and topped out at 93 mph when needed. Bochy called it a mix that will play at this level, and said he hopes Sunday will show Stratton “how good his stuff is.”

The Giants want Stratton to take a confidence boost from this and build off of it, but, as has been the case all year, his next start may not be on normal rest. Stratton was originally supposed to start on Friday and Wednesday of this trip, but the rain ruined those plans. The Giants will use a spot starter Wednesday and then will have to reshuffle their rotation in some way. Stratton doesn’t mind. He’s just ready to show what he can do. 

“All you can hope for is an opportunity and you go out there and make the most of it,” he said.

Madison Bumgarner, Gorkys Hernandez make statements in win over Dodgers


Madison Bumgarner, Gorkys Hernandez make statements in win over Dodgers

LOS ANGELES — A 2-1 victory Saturday night at Dodger Stadium all but assured that the Giants will not lose 100 games. They still could, sure, because any sort of downslide is possible in this 2017 season, but they would really have to finish with some sort of ugly stretch. 

Still, it’s been a long season, so it was no surprise when Madison Bumgarner admitted to some sleepless nights since Opening Day. As for Saturday night …

“It’s going to be much easier to go to sleep tonight, because we won,” Bumgarner said.

The big lefty did the heavy lifting, throwing 7 2/3 dominant innings and offering one more reminder that his shoulder is 100 percent fine after a season-halting dirt bike accident. Bumgarner topped out at 93.5 mph, and even though Bruce Bochy thought Dodger Stadium might have had a hot gun on this night, the swings told the story of a good fastball. Bumgarner said this was as good as he has felt in a while. 

“He did look strong,” Bochy said. “He did have really good stuff tonight. It was really crisp.”

It was the kind of night that reminds you that, for all their issues, the Giants will start 2018 with a leg up on many others. They have Madison Bumgarner and you don’t, and that should lead to plenty of good over the course of 32 or 33 starts. 

“I think it’s good for the club to know, hey, he’s back,” Bochy said. “This is the kind of ball we can play.”

It was the brand Bochy appreciates: A strong start, a good bullpen, strong defense, and just enough offense. That’s how the Giants will win in 2018, if they are to do so, which bodes well for the man at the center of Saturday’s offense. The Giants plan to move Denard Span to left field and acquire a new center fielder, but they still lack depth in the organization, and Gorkys Hernandez has made it clear he would like to stick around. He had three hits — including two doubles — and a walk, scoring both Giants runs. 

After a slow start that almost got him released, Hernandez took off over the summer, providing a high average and sparkling defense at three spots. A left wrist tendon issue has slowed him in September, but he surprised the staff by being available for the final two weeks of games, and he said he’ll play through the end of the year before considering any rehab options 

“He certainly has made a statement,” Bochy said. “He’s one of our better athletes. He can play anywhere in the outfield, and what’s impressive is how he’s come on with the bat. A kid like this that plays defense the way he can, and shows he can do some things with the bat, he’s in the mix.”

Hernandez said he loves playing in San Francisco. He intends to spend his offseason getting healthy at his home in Scottsdale before competing for an outfield job. 

“Every time Bochy puts me in the lineup I’m trying to show everyone that I can be here and that I can be part of this team for a long time,” he said. 

Giants lineup: Span back in center, batting third vs Dodgers


Giants lineup: Span back in center, batting third vs Dodgers

Even with the Giants facing a left-handed pitcher Saturday night vs. the Dodgers, Bruce Bochy is going with Denard Span as his three-hitter.

San Francisco Giants (60-94)

1. Gorkys Hernandez (R) LF
2. Joe Panik (L) 2B
3. Denard Span (L) CF
4. Buster Posey (R) C
5. Hunter Pence (R) RF
6. Brandon Crawford (L) SS
7. Kelby Tomlinson (R) 3B
8. Ryder Jones (L) 1B
9. Madison Bumgarner (R) P

Los Angeles Dodgers (98-56)

1. Chris Taylor (R) CF
2. Corey Seager (L) SS
3. Enrique Hernandez (R) LF
4. Yasiel Puig (R) RF
5. Logan Forsythe (R) 3B
6. Austin Barnes (R) C
7. Kyle Farmer (R) 1B
8. Charlie Culberson (R) 2B
9. Hyun-Jin Ryu (R) P