NEW YORK -- For six full innings Tuesday night at Citi Field, Chris Stratton used a mechanical adjustment discovered at Triple-A to blank the Mets. Had the night ended then for Stratton -- starting for the first time since a two-plus week demotion to Sacramento -- the effort would've been
NEW YORK -- For six full innings Tuesday night at Citi Field, Chris Stratton used a mechanical adjustment discovered at Triple-A to blank the Mets. Had the night ended then for Stratton -- starting for the first time since a two-plus week demotion to Sacramento -- the effort would've been an unspoiled positive step toward turning around his season. And perhaps it still will.
But the right-hander will have to look for moral victories after what unfolded in the final innings of what became a 6-3 loss, pushing the Giants further out of the National League playoff picture. The defeat dropped San Francisco eight games back of Arizona in the NL West, and 7 1/2 behind Colorado and St. Louis for the second Wild Card.
"The season started off well and it's been a little frustrating for the last two months or so," said Stratton, who had allowed 17 earned runs in his past 10 innings before being optioned. "It's something to build off of today, but I definitely have to continue to improve."
The adjustments Stratton made with the RiverCats were physical, suggested by special instructor Ryan Vogelsong. During a side session two weeks ago before a road game in Nashville, Vogelsong taught Stratton a new way to keep his front side closed during his delivery. Before that, Stratton had been opening his front hip "too quickly," causing him to lose his fastball command and making his pitches flatten in the zone.
The early returns against New York were plain to see: Stratton scattered three hits and struck out four with no walks over six shutout innings, the righty cruising until back-to-back hits from Jeff McNeil and Wilmer Flores opened the seventh. Stratton then conferenced with manager Bruce Bochy on the mound, cradling a 2-0 lead. Bochy allowed Stratton, whose ERA had ballooned to 5.52 in recent weeks, to face Michael Conforto and Austin Jackson, who tied the game with a sac fly and an RBI single, respectively.
The Mets then scored four runs in the eighth off Tony Watson, who coughed up a three-run homer to Conforto that blew the game open.
"He was throwing the ball well. He was getting outs. In our situation, we're trying to get him as far as we could," Bochy said. "It was good to see him get back on track tonight."
Playing without a slew of regulars after Monday's 13-inning marathon, the Giants managed just five hits against Steven Matz, Corey Oswalt and Seth Lugo. After Evan Longoria connected for a two-run home run off Matz in the first, 18 of the next 19 Giants were retired. Only a misplay by Jose Bautista with two outs in the ninth -- on a ball generously ruled a RBI single for Austin Slater -- kept the Giants from scoring two or fewer runs for the fifth time in seven games.
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MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Longo goes long ball: Stratton had a lead to surrender because of Longoria, who provided an early jolt with the type of hit that hasn't come often for the Giants recently. Longoria's 389-foot shot off Matz was his first home run since Aug. 5, and San Francisco's first big fly in 46 innings.
FLASH THE LEATHER, AGAIN
For the second consecutive night, the Giants used a string of highlight-reel defensive plays to keep the Mets largely off the bases early. Starting at shortstop for just the 10th time this season, Alen Hanson dove to his left to rob Kevin Plawecki of a would-be base hit in the second.
Hunter Pence then made the play of this series an inning later, ranging to the track in left center to make an over-the-shoulder catch on Matz's long drive. Pence lost his cap in the process.
HE SAID IT
"Before, I couldn't feel when my front side was going quick. Today I could feel it. That's the difference with the one-pitch adjustments and rolling through a couple innings. … Overall, having that feeling and knowing what it feels like helps you make that adjustment." -- Stratton
Bochy expects a slew of regulars back in his lineup -- including, perhaps, catcher Buster Posey, though the All-Star is considering season-ending hip surgery -- on Wednesday to face Noah Syndergaard (8-3, 3.40) at Citi Field. Brandon Belt, Joe Panik and Brandon Crawford should return as well, after all earned the day off Tuesday following Monday's 13-inning marathon. Right-hander Casey Kelly (0-1, 1.69) will make his second start of the season for San Francisco, with first pitch set for 4:10 p.m. PT.
Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.