It's a Bird…It's a Plane…It's...Stripling?
Ross Stripling did his best Max Scherzer impression, and the Los Angeles Dodgers won their third straight game, 4-1, over the San Diego Padres on Friday night at Dodger Stadium.
Fresh off the heels of their series victory over the division rival Colorado Rockies, the Dodgers continued their 10-game homestand by welcoming their neighbors down south, the San Diego Padres.
Starter turned relief pitcher, turned back to starter, Ross Stripling, carried over the momentum from his last start with another stellar performance on Friday.
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"When you first come up it's, 'Do I belong?'" said Stripling about his bouncing back and forth between starter and reliever. "Then you switch roles in my case and come back to the old role, but once you get some comfort you can get confident and you can snowball a couple good outings in a row. I'm feeling good now, but this game can be humbling."
In his first career start against the Padres, Stripling (2-1) allowed just one run (unearned) on six hits with no walks and a career-high 10 strikeouts in 6 and 2/3 innings.
"I had all four pitches working and a good scouting report," said Stripling of his start. "I was able to go out and execute it, get some strikeouts and it's pretty cool to get a career-high."
Stripling lowered his ERA to 1.74 on the season, and in case you thought we were joking about the Max Scherzer comparison, the three-time Cy Young Award winner has a slightly larger 1.78 ERA this year.
"Things are working and I feel like I'm going to go out and have success and that's where we are right now," said Stripling when asked if his ERA could stay below Scherzer's this season. "I watched him pitch last week in D.C. and I don't know if I can have the aggression that he is. I think I'm more mellow, but he's certainly fun to watch. That guy's crazy."
Stripling received plenty of run support early in the game courtesy of a former Friar in Matt Kemp.
Kemp greeted former teammate Clayton Richard with a three-run home run off the left-hander in the bottom of the first inning.
"He left a pitch up and I put a good swing on it and was able to bring some runs in," said Kemp of his homer. "It's always good to win, especially as bad as we started off. We have a long season ahead of us and a lot of ground to make up, but we're having fun right now."
The long ball was Kemp's sixth of the season and four out of the six (67 percent) have come against San Diego.
"It just so happens to be four home runs against them," said Kemp nonchalantly. "Probably need to start hitting some home runs against some other teams as well."
Kemp has hit safely in all seven games against San Diego this season, including five multi-hit games and is batting .577 with five runs, one double, four homers and 12 RBI against the Padres.
Kemp improved his MLB-best batting average with runners in scoring position to .486 on the season.
Enrique Hernandez became an honorary member of the Dodgers' "Slug Club," when he also took Richard deep in the bottom of the third inning.
Richard (3-6) took the loss, allowing four runs on four hits with three walks and four strikeouts in six innings.
San Diego's sole run of the game came on an error by right fielder Yasiel Puig.
Manuel Margot led off the inning with a double down the right field line, but Puig bobbled the ball and then appeared to watch Margot rather than gather the ball quickly.
"Initially it was a great play, potentially turning a double into a single," said Dodgers' manager Dave Roberts of the error. "He got to it and cut the ball off, but once he didn't come up with it he turned a physical mistake into a mental mistake and turned that double into a triple and it cost us a run."
Margot ended up on third base and scored two batters later on a groundout by Travis Janikowski.
Kenley Jansen pitched a perfect night for his 11th save of the season and his fifth save in six days.
All of the Dodgers runs in the game came via the home run as Los Angeles has won seven of their last eight games.
"It's the starting pitching," said Roberts of the team's recent success. "When starters can go deep it takes the pressure off everyone. You get a rested bullpen. When you can get a lead early and play with the lead and not have to hit for the pitcher early, it takes the pressure off everyone."
The team's starting pitching has been sensational over that span, posting a 1.38 ERA and holding hitters to a .152 average with 83 strikeouts.
"It's been awesome," said Stripling. "Buehler and Kenta have set the bar high. When you have guys like Kershaw and Rich [Hill] and Hyun-Jin go down, it's nice to have the depth. Guys have stepped up."
Game Two of the series features RHP Jordan Lyles against LHP Alex Wood with first pitch scheduled for 7:10PM PST.
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