WASHINGTON D.C. — Chris Stratton's first start this season came with just a few minutes of notice after Johnny Cueto was scratched with an ear infection. His second start was delayed nearly two weeks because of a groin injury that was probably about as real as the roof at Nationals Park.
When Stratton’s third start was delayed once again, Bruce Bochy approached the rookie right-hander. He was pleased with Stratton’s reaction to being pushed back two days by rain.
“He’s got a sense of calmness about him,” Bochy said. “He doesn’t get rattled by anything.”
Perhaps there’s a good reason for that. Stratton has a 15-month-old son at home. A couple of days of waiting around in the clubhouse can’t seem that stressful for the 26-year-old. Stratton said he learned his lesson from his previous start, which was pushed back an additional 15 minutes by a pre-game ceremony at AT&T Park. When the rain came Friday, he just sat back in a clubhouse chair and relaxed.
“You just have to be ready for whatever,” Stratton said.
The Nationals weren’t ready for him.
Stratton struck out 10 in one of the better starts of the year for the Giants, leading the way in a 4-2 win on Sunday afternoon. The double-digit strikeout performance was just the fifth of the year for the Giants. The win was the first of the season for Stratton, who is going to get a long audition to be a part of next season’s pitching staff.
“We were hoping he would get a sense of comfort about him with a consistent starting situation, where he could get on a roll or groove,” Bochy said. “He had good command of all his pitches today and threw some nice pitches with two strikes … the put-away pitches, he executed those well.”
Stratton primarily turned to a curveball that’s a sneaky weapon. It has the highest spin rate of any curve in the game this season, and Stratton threw it 21 times in 6 2/3 innings, getting five swinging strikes. Four of his strikeouts ended with a curveball. Only one of the curveballs Stratton threw resulted in a hit.
“It’s your traditional 12-to-6 type of breaker and he has good command of it,” Bochy said. “He doesn’t leave it up too often. It’s a very effective pitch for him.”
Stratton mixed in a good slider, too, and topped out at 93 mph when needed. Bochy called it a mix that will play at this level, and said he hopes Sunday will show Stratton “how good his stuff is.”
The Giants want Stratton to take a confidence boost from this and build off of it, but, as has been the case all year, his next start may not be on normal rest. Stratton was originally supposed to start on Friday and Wednesday of this trip, but the rain ruined those plans. The Giants will use a spot starter Wednesday and then will have to reshuffle their rotation in some way. Stratton doesn’t mind. He’s just ready to show what he can do.
“All you can hope for is an opportunity and you go out there and make the most of it,” he said.