Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts could do no wrong through his first three games as a manager. He faced some minor criticism over removing Scott Kazmir after just 75 pitches in six innings on Tuesday, but three scoreless innings from the bullpen and another shutout win washed that away.
The heat turned up in Thursday’s series opener against the San Francisco Giants, when Roberts allowed Alex Wood to bat for himself in the top of the sixth and take the mound in the bottom half of the inning. Prior to his at-bat, Wood allowed three runs in the fifth, which cut the Dodgers’ lead to 4-3.
Matt Duffy and Brandon Crawford combined for back-to-back base hits with no outs in the bottom of the sixth, and Roberts came with the hook. San Francisco scored four runs in the inning and went on to beat the Dodgers, 12-6.
One night later, Roberts watched from the dugout as rookie Ross Stripling was in the process of shattering expectations in his Major League debut. Stripling was perfect through three innings before walking Joe Panik in the fourth.
More free passes were handed out, but the right-hander nonetheless kept a no-hitter intact. Stripling walked Angel Pagan with one out in the eighth inning on his 100th pitch of the game, and it marked the end of his night and a chase at history.
Chris Hatcher entered and promptly gave up a game-tying home run to Trevor Brown. The Giants catcher admitted to feeling a sense of relief and surprise over Stripling getting lifted, per Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News:
“I mean, I hadn’t even fouled a ball off him,” said Brown, who had struck out twice against Stripling. “I know it was his debut, but honestly, I was surprised. It was a sigh of relief, honestly, to get a different pitcher out there.”
Brown was Stripling’s first career strikeout, going down on three pitches — two fastballs (both called strikes) followed by a curveball (swinging strike). Brown then struck out on five pitches to end the fifth inning; all three strikes were swing-and-misses.
Appearing in just his 15th career Major League game, Brown, a product out of UCLA, is no stranger to the Dodgers-Giants rivalry. He hit a two-run double in the second inning last September off Zack Greinke and caught 12 innings in the Giants’ extra-innings win on Sept. 28.
Roberts explained Stripling was on a pitch count, which would corresponds to the first-year manager’s comments last week that the Dodgers would keep their 2012 fifth-round pick on an innings limit.