'Something has got to change' for Chris Stratton after latest rough outing

'Something has got to change' for Chris Stratton after latest rough outing

PHILADELPHIA — Sometimes you miss your ace at the strangest times. At Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday night, the middle innings might have qualified. 

Chris Stratton has been forced into the top role thanks to injuries to Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto, and ineffectiveness for Jeff Samardzija, but as he walked three in the fifth, the Giants got a reminder that he’s probably not ready to be the stopper on the staff. In the sixth, they got a reminder that having to plug holes in the rotation can leave some big gaps in the bullpen. 

The result was an ugly 11-3 loss to the Phillies, the third straight after a sweep of the Braves. Stratton gave up five earned and walked four. Pierce Johnson, a late addition to the staff this spring, but one who has pitched well, compounded the damage and was charged with six earned. Derek Law, called up Tuesday because the Giants simply don’t have healthy arms on the 40-man roster, couldn’t stop the bleeding until the game was well out of hand. 

The Giants were not winning this one given the way Stratton pitched and the lineup failed to hit early, but sometimes you can make a charge in the late innings in a small park. All too often, two or three-run deficits have turned into blowouts. 

“Those guys have got to hold them there to give you a chance to come back, but they keep tacking on,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “That’s hard for everybody.”

It won’t get any easier. Bumgarner isn’t due back for another month or so. Cueto will be at least two to three weeks behind him, and that’s if neither suffers a setback. They’ll need to find a way to pitch through this, and it’ll have to start with Stratton. There aren’t other options, really. 

Stratton got off to a scorching start this season but has given up 14 earned runs in his past three starts and pitched just 12 innings. 

“Overall I didn’t do a good job of commanding the fastball today,” he said. “I’ve got to do a better job in the first inning. The last three starts I’ve given up some runs in the first. I don’t know if I have to change my routine or have a different mindset, but something has got to change in that first to set the tone for the rest of the night.”

The lineup could have set a different tone, but Brandon Belt and Evan Longoria struck out against Nick Pivetta with two on in the top of the first. It was all quiet from there. The Giants struck out 11 times. 

The Giants’ pitchers also struck out 11, but they walked seven, too. Six of the Phillies who walked came around to score. 

“The walks have killed us,” Bochy said. “You look at all these rallies, there’s a walk involved. We just don’t seem to get away with those walks, and that’s got to get better.”

What the next 25-26 games will tell us about the Giants and A's


What the next 25-26 games will tell us about the Giants and A's

The schedule is always a treacherous way to decide the future of a baseball team. Teams get hot and grow cold again based on much more than the color of their uniforms and whether they cab or drive to the ballpark.

But it can be reasonably inferred that the San Francisco Giants were eager to reach this part of their season, in which 20 of the 26 games between now and the All-Star Break would be played in their relatively clement Third Street digs . . . and that the Oakland Athletics would be just as dismayed to hit the same stretch, since 20 of their last 25 would be played away from home – in San Diego, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Houston and San Francisco.

But even if you throw out the last three for each team given that there are no hotels involved, these are still long stretches without schedule balance.

For the A’s, who are average in every way imaginable (20-20 at home, 16-16 away), this stretch could eliminate them from their thin hopes of a playoff spot, if only because Boston, New York, Houston and Seattle seem to lose so rarely, and a struggle between now and July 15 could cause their already daunting 10-game gap with the postseason spots to grow beyond their ability to control it.

For the Giants, on the other hand, their deficit is a much more manageable 4 ½ games with Arizona in the NL West and four with Washington for the second NL Wild Card. Moreover, their health shortfalls are supposed to end soon, with both Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija to return before the break.

But oddly, the Giants are racing toward rope-cutting time, in which they have to decide if (a) they will be buyers or sellers at the deadline, and (b) what they want to buy and what they have to sell. That is why this next stretch could well determine their fate just as much as Oakland’s.

San Francisco hasn’t been healthy at all this season (only two teams have spent more disabled list days so far than the Giants), but nobody cares. Every team has injuries, and every team deals with them. In short, life is cruel, and then the body part replacements come.

But the Giants have been kicking the rebuilding can down the road for awhile now, and this next stretch – against Miami, San Diego, Colorado, at Arizona and at Colorado, then St. Louis, the Chicago Cubs and finally Oakland – will very likely solve their most pressing conundrum.

Specifically, whether it’s worth it to draw from an already-thin prospect list to chase a veteran or two who could propel them into October, or whether it is better to bag the whole attempt and try to go with a full remodel.

The Giants haven’t rebuilt their rosters for a decade now, and said rebuild was an unqualified success, if judged only by rings and parades. But that time is again upon them, as much as they like to claim otherwise, and the matter of when that rebuild should commence will be settled to some extent by these next 26 games.

At least that is how the Giants would like to frame it. Both Arizona and Los Angeles could fall off the earth’s mantle and come back to the Giants, or one of them could heat up and render the whole exercise moot. Things change all the time in baseball, and they don’t follow a linear path. It’s kind of like WAR (wins above replacement, that is, rather than the other one). It all depends on the formula you use.

Mike Krukow reveals why Giants 'were not too happy' on Sunday in LA

Mike Krukow reveals why Giants 'were not too happy' on Sunday in LA

With every major holiday that occurs during the season, all MLB teams have their jerseys and hats tweaked to feature the colors associated with the holiday.

On Memorial Day, it's camo. On Mother's Day, it's pink. On the Fourth of July, it's red, white and blue.

For Father's Day, it's light blue, and that made for a slightly awkward situation Sunday in Los Angeles as the Giants' black hat was replaced by a light blue hat. Shirts underneath the jersey had to be light blue.

Appearing on KNBR 680 Monday morning, broadcaster Mike Krukow was asked about the Giants' wearing blue against the Dodgers.

"What is up with that? Serious business. And the boys were not too happy about that," Krukow said before the phone connection cut out.

Why do MLB teams wear blue on Father's Day? It's to raise awareness for prostate cancer and raise money for research to fight the disease.

So the Giants may not have been thrilled about wearing the color of their arch rival, but it was for a good cause.

After beating the Dodgers on Sunday, the Giants are back home Monday where they open a 10-game homestand against the Marlins.