Los Angeles Dodgers rookie pitcher Ross Stripling began his Major League Baseball debut innocently enough by retiring the San Francisco Giants in order in the first inning. Stripling did so again in the second and third innings, ending the third with back-to-back strikeouts of Trevor Brown and Matt Cain.
The strikeouts were the first and second of Stripling’s career. At that juncture, the general sense was the rookie was more than up to the challenge of making his first career start in front of a rabid Giants fan base at AT&T Park.
Stripling issued back-to-back walks with one out in the fourth, but worked out of trouble by retiring the next two batters to keep the game knotted in a scoreless tie. By the end of the fifth, Stripling was pitching with a 2-0 lead and had a no-hitter going.
The Dodgers’ fifth-round pick from the 2012 draft reached the seventh inning with his no-hitter still intact. Angel Pagan drew a one-out walk, and Dodgers manager Dave Roberts brought the hook for Stripling, who threw 100 pitches over 7.1 innings.
For some, including many in attendance who showered Roberts with boos, the decision came as a surprise. However, the rookie manager later called it an easy decision and explained it was predetermined Stripling would not throw more than 100 pitches, via ESPN:
“We made that decision before the game. The most he threw in spring was 78 pitches. He’s coming off Tommy John, he threw 70 innings last year,” Roberts said. “At 100 pitches, that was our number. … I want to keep his future and health in mind. I made that decision if somebody gets on base, we’re going to go to [Chris Hatcher]. That’s kind of how it played out, and I think it’s a great story. He pitched well but under no circumstance am I going to even consider putting his future in jeopardy.”
Stripling voiced his support of Roberts’ decision to remove him despite the historic implications that were on the line:
“I thought it was the right choice,” Stripling said. “I was tired. I think I had walked a couple late in those innings, and it was the right call. Whether it was the high pitch count or what, you could tell that I was trending downwards. I think it was a tough decision for him, and I certainly had no ill feelings toward the decision one bit.”
Chris Hatcher promptly gave up a game-tying home run to Trevor Brown — who struck out in each of his first two at-bats on the night — and admitted to being surprised by Stripling’s removal. San Francisco went on to win in 10 innings on Brandon Crawford walk-off solo home run.
Stripling, who missed 14 months after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2014, didn’t throw more than 93 pitches in a game last season with Double-A Tulsa. He made just four spring appearances this year, with all but one coming out of the bullpen.
He threw 78 pitches over five innings in the lone start. At the time of naming Stripling the Dodgers’ fifth starter, Roberts said the 26 year old would be on an innings limit this season; Stripling estimated that would be 125-150 innings. He threw 67.1 over 13 starts with the Drillers last season and four innings in a rehab start for Low-A Great Lakes.