It was smooth sailing for the Los Angeles Dodgers through the first three games of the season and they opened their 2016 campaign with a trio of shutout wins against the San Diego Padres. Los Angeles then traveled north to face the San Francisco Giants
On top of the usual excitement and fever pitch that’s present whenver the two storied rivals meet, Thursday’s game was the Giants’ home opener. Alex Wood was spotted a 2-0 lead in the second inning, with another run tacked on in the third and fifth innings.
The southpaw picked up where the Dodgers pitching staff left off, holding the Giants without a run through four innings; that extended the Dodgers’ scoreless streak to 31 frames, which set a new franchise record.
However, San Francisco scored three runs in fifth and after chasing Wood with back-to-back base hits, four more in the sixth. On top of snapping the Dodgers’ scoreless streak, the Giants ended their modest three-game winning streak with a 12-6 victory.
Now rookie Ross Stripling gets thrown into the fire for not only his first start above Double-A ball, but also his Major League debut. The 26 year old has known since April 1 he was named the fifth starter over Carlos Frias, providing some time for preparation.
Part of that included Stripling reaching out to his former Texas A&M teammate and now St. Louis Cardinals’ righty Michael Wacha, per ESPN’s Doug Padilla:
“He just says it’s baseball and you have been doing it forever,” Stripling said. “If you can implement a game plan, you can get guys out. He said have confidence to go out and do what you can do. He didn’t get crazy specific or anything, and I didn’t ask him about any specific hitters. Just broad advice, that it’s still baseball and go out and attack, be a competitor.”
Stripling added the time leading up to his start has lent to some anxious feelings:
“The wait has been kind of building up the anxiousness,” he said. “I wouldn’t say I’m nervous, I’m just eager to get the ball rolling and face some major league hitters; see how it goes.”
The Dodgers’ fifth-round selection in the 2012 draft spent last season working his way back from a 2014 Tommy John surgery. He was 3-6 with a 3.88 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and averaged 7.4 strikeouts per nine innings over 13 starts with the Drillers.
This spring, Stripling had a 4.09 ERA, 1.63 WHIP and 11 strikeouts to four walks over 11 innings pitched in four games (three relief appearances; one start).
Although Friday marks Stripling’s first start in the Majors, he’s twice attended a game at AT&T Park during his time with High-A Rancho Cucamonga. “I think it’s hostile, but it’s an exciting place to pitch,” Roberts said on April 1 after announcing Stripling as the fifth starter.
“Ross has a good head on his shoulders.” The first-year manager also pointed to Stripling’s pitch mix and how they should mesh well with a game plan.