SAN DIEGO — When it was all over and the Giants gathered on the mound for handshakes and back pats after a 7-0 win over the Padres, some of them started to understand how strange the starting pitcher’s line actually was.
Chris Stratton allowed one hit in seven innings, and it was a pinch-hit single by starting pitcher Clayton Richard, who was batting only because Bryan Mitchell had struggled so badly that he didn’t even make it to his first plate appearance. Richard became the first player since Pittsburgh’s Mace Brown in 1935 to enter the game as a reliever and get his team’s only hit.
“I thought he had the day off,” Stratton deadpanned.
The odd and historic feat by Richard kept Stratton from chasing his own moment with the record books. He walked three, but other than that it was cruise control, a 101 pitch masterpiece that could have been more. Giants starters do, after all, have a history with these Padres.
Bruce Bochy later said he would have let Stratton go pretty deep to chase a no-hitter. Instead this was just a seven-inning one-hitter, but that still carried significance. Stratton had on three previous occasions thrown 6 2/3 innings, but he had never recorded that 21st out. Going back to spring training, he has talked of getting deeper into games. On this night he became the first Giants starter this season to throw 100 pitches, and the timing couldn’t have been better. The Giants had two players make their MLB debuts on the last turn for the rotation, and the bullpen, Bochy said, was gassed.
“When you look at the staff, we’ve had to put some young kids in there and now (Stratton) is one of our (main) guys,” Bochy said. “He was coming in as the No. 4 starter, and now it makes him the No. 1 guy. And he can do that. He can handle that. I think he’s ready to take that on as far as getting us deeper into games.”
Stratton had one wobble, walking two in the fifth, but he won a 12-pitch battle with Austin Hedges and emerged from that inning to retire six straight over the final two frames. When he was done, Stratton lowered his season ERA to 2.60 in three starts. In 12 starts since sliding into the rotation full-time last August, he has a 2.47 ERA. Those are not the numbers of a No. 4 starter.
“He is more than that,” Bochy said, nodding. “He’s just been so consistent with all four of his pitches and with his command. His stuff is better than it shows.”
The Padres found that out over seven innings. Perhaps it's understandable, then, that Richard was the one to get the hit. He didn’t have time to prepare and then be surprised by the carry on Stratton’s fastball, the spin of his curveball, or the depth of his slider.
“It’s just part of the game,” Stratton said. “That was a good swing by him.”