Stripling's homecoming provides much-needed comfort

May 14th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Martín Gallegos’ A’s Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

HOUSTON -- The novelty of coming back to pitch in his home state of Texas never gets old for , especially when it’s a series against the Astros.

Stripling lives in Houston during the offseason. So after the A’s landed here late Sunday night from a weekend series in Seattle, he retrieved his bags and drove home to his wife Shelby and two toddler sons Jaxon and Brodie. Stripling shifted to full-on father mode up until leaving for Minute Maid Park -- about a 10-minute drive from his house -- on Monday,

“I was abruptly woken up by my kids at 7:45 in the morning,” Stripling said. “I got to live the normal dad life until I came here at 1:30 [p.m.] and clocked in for work.”

Having grown up in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Stripling is bombarded with ticket requests reaching close to triple digits any time he’s in line to face the Rangers. Pitching in Houston is a bit more low-key. Drawing the start for the A’s in Monday’s series opener, he left a total of 19 tickets for friends and family members.

“The Dallas games are a bigger deal,” Stripling said. “Here [in Houston] it’s usually closer-knit. It’s my brother, my wife and her family. My parents will drive down.”

Still, despite the fact that it was his fourth career start at Minute Maid, the nerves were mostly the same as always for Stripling whenever he pitches at home. In addition to his 19 guests, others such as college teammates from Texas A&M and a former Little League coach of Stripling’s paid their way to come watch him pitch.

“People from outside your normal network saying they would be here adds to the butterflies a little bit,” Stripling said. “You want to put on a show for those guys. It’s still fun. I definitely enjoy it.”

Coming off the worst start of his career his last time out -- after allowing a career-high 11 runs (five earned) in 1 2/3 innings against the Rangers at the Coliseum on May 7 -- Stripling was in search of a bounceback. The result was encouraging. In a 9-2 loss to Houston, he kept the game close by limiting the Astros to three runs (two earned) on four hits and two walks with one strikeout in five innings.

“It felt like a good step forward,” Stripling said after Monday’s outing. “I tried to flush that last one. … I feel like I was back to where I was before that Rangers outing. Hopefully, I can build on this one.”

After joining the A’s this offseason in a trade with the Giants, Stripling’s season has been a mixed bag, posting a 4.98 ERA through nine starts. Oakland valued his ability to eat innings, and he’s done that, tossing at least five innings in eight of his nine outings.

With the rotation taking its lumps over the past couple of weeks -- Joe Boyle and Paul Blackburn are on the injured list, while Alex Wood’s status for his next start is uncertain -- Stripling will be counted on to bring stability every time he takes the mound. The A’s will certainly take more outings like the one he provided on Monday.

“Me and JP [Sears] were joking about going out and pitching in a bubble just to try to stay healthy,” Stripling said. “It’s always tough when we were rocking the same five for over a month and lose three of them. We just have to keep plugging away.”