Coming off a bullpen game and week in which they heavily leaned on their relief pitchers, the Los Angeles Dodgers looked to Ross Stripling to provide some length against the Milwaukee Brewers in their series finale.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said prior to first pitch he hoped Stripling would manage to log around six innings. Stripling entered the game as the last Dodger pitcher to turn in a quality start, doing so April 3 against the San Francisco Giants.
Coming off a bit of a rocky outing, the right-hander answered the bell. Stripling held the Brewers to just one run and scattered four hits over eight innings. The outing was the longest of his career and marked the first time Stripling reached the eighth inning since his MLB debut.
“Alright, so, see you there again in another three-and-a-half years,” he quipped.
Stripling benefitted from the Brewers’ aggressiveness, pitching to contact and retiring 10 batters in a row from the fourth to seventh inning. “That’s kind of the name of the game for me,” he said.
“I think that is starting pitching, I guess, in general, is trying to get early contact and eat up as many innings as you can. We may not do that here a ton and it’s kind of old-school thought, but it’s still the thought for sure. Kershaw is kind of the one that instills that in us. Able to get through eight, definitely proud of that.”
The strong performance was a byproduct of Stripling refining his mechanics to gain better leverage off his hip and lengthen his stride which stemmed from a collective effort to identify the issue and correct it. “Brandon McDaniel is on the ball with that stuff, he’s very involved with things we do in the front office as well,” Stripling explained.
“I think he was the first one to bring it up to Rick, who brought it up to Prior and then it was a group effort to work on it. We looked at some of the stuff from last year when things were going really well. I was getting a little more extension and using my lower half a little better, so we focused on that in the bullpen; just trying to free up my push-off hip a little bit.
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“Basically cut down the distance between myself and the hitter. Pitching is probably more lower half than upper half, and if your lower half isn’t as connected or being used to full efficiency, you’re not going to be throwing as hard, you’re probably going to get tired quicker, all that stuff.”
With the change came a slight increase in Stripling’s fastball velocity to 91 mph. “I’m not a guy that focuses so much on velocity, but I’ll certainly take it if it’s there,” he said. “I’m definitely optimistic that what we worked on helped, and we’ll keep doing it moving forward.”
Most important to Stripling, however, was the quick pace Sunday’s game was played in, which left plenty of time before the season eight premiere of Game of Thrones.
“The biggest thing is just proud of getting us in home in time for Game of Thrones. That was priority No. 1,” he joked. “I think it comes out on the app around six o’clock. Make sure everyone gets home, gets settled in, gets ready.”