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Giants can't overcome Stratton's rare off start

Depleted 'pen forfeits lead despite Giants' strong day of offense
MLB.com

SAN FRANCISCO -- Long after Chris Stratton was chased from his four-inning start, tied for his second-shortest start of the year, it was San Francisco's bullpen that decided Thursday afternoon's game against the Rockies.

DJ LeMahieu, who grounded into a double play to end Tuesday night's game, hit a lead-changing two-run homer off Sam Dyson (2-2) in the top of the ninth, which proved to be the difference in the Rockies' 9-8 win. The loss snapped San Francisco's five-game win streak.

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Long after Chris Stratton was chased from his four-inning start, tied for his second-shortest start of the year, it was San Francisco's bullpen that decided Thursday afternoon's game against the Rockies.

DJ LeMahieu, who grounded into a double play to end Tuesday night's game, hit a lead-changing two-run homer off Sam Dyson (2-2) in the top of the ninth, which proved to be the difference in the Rockies' 9-8 win. The loss snapped San Francisco's five-game win streak.

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The Giants, now winners of seven of their last nine, have been buoyed by tremendous efforts from their rotation and bullpen. Before the Giants gave up nine runs Thursday, their opponents had scored only seven runs combined in their last four games.

After scoreless appearances on Wednesday night, high-leverage relievers Will Smith and Reyes Moronta were both unavailable.

"We talk about it every day," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "Guys who are going to get a day, give them a break. The other guys, they're going to pitch late in the ballgame. That's what's nice about this bullpen -- we have guys who can do that."

On Thursday, the Giants' bullpen was tasked with pitching five innings without two of its best late-inning options after Stratton's short start.

"[Stratton] was just a little up today, a little off," Bochy said. "It was a grind for him. The big inning, gave up four that inning, they had good at-bats. But he made some mistakes, I think he'll tell you that."

Video: COL@SF: Stratton strikes out Desmond in the 2nd

As Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija continue to make rehab starts for Triple-A Sacramento, Bochy is well aware of the starting rotation decisions looming before him.

"I think with the way the rotation has been throwing the ball, it's not going to be easy, but we knew this would be coming," Bochy said on Monday. "I want them to focus on pitching and doing their job and making it tough on this decision, and they're doing that."

Madison Bumgarner, who has looked his vintage self with consecutive outings of seven-plus scoreless innings, and Derek Holland, with his 2.70 ERA in June, are not going anywhere. That could soon leave one rotation spot for any of a trio of pitchers -- Andrew Suarez, Dereck Rodriguez and Stratton -- who have all been deserving of the role.

Stratton auditioned on Thursday, scattering eight hits and five earned runs before being pinch-hit for in the bottom of the fourth inning. It was an uncharacteristic outing for the right-hander, who had thrown three straight quality starts and leads the team with eight wins.

"Just a tough one today," Stratton said. "I felt I threw the ball pretty well but mistakes were amplified there. They got real aggressive with runners on in the fourth inning. I just didn't locate well enough to get outs."

The Giants did their best to pick up Stratton. Ignited by Brandon Belt's two-run shot in the first inning, the offense scored eight runs for the first time since June 8. Joe Panik chipped in with a two-run double in the fourth, both Andrew McCutchen and Pablo Sandoval collected a pair of hits and Alen Hanson's timely two-run double in the eighth sent AT&T Park into a frenzy.

Video: COL@SF: Belt lifts a 2-run homer in the 1st

"You have to feel good about how you're going on the road here," Bochy said. "These guys are battling, that's what I love about what's happening right now. They're finding ways to win games. Today, Colorado did. You have to deal with this and bounce back."

Finding a way is something Bochy has said a lot amidst his team's winning stretch. On Thursday, despite the shortest outing they've gotten from a starting pitcher since June 9, the Giants nearly found a way.

"Our pitching has been really great," Stratton said. "I feel like I've been throwing the ball pretty well besides today. I think overall our staff is doing well. The bats are coming around. I think we have a lot of confidence going into this road trip."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
With the Rockies hoping to add some insurance to their precarious 7-6 eighth-inning lead, Nick Hundley threw out Trevor Story stealing second base after the shortstop's leadoff single. Manager Bud Black tested Hundley again when Gerardo Parra reached on an error just three pitches later. The veteran catcher was up for the challenge, throwing out Parra and preserving the one-run deficit.

Video: COL@SF: Hundley tosses out his 2nd straight runner

UP NEXT
Suarez (2-4, 4.43 ERA) will aim to end June the same way he started it when he takes on the D-backs Friday at 6:40 p.m. PT at Chase Field. The lefty has a 2.86 ERA this month, which he's done by pounding the strike zone. Suarez hasn't walked more than two batters in an outing all season. He'll face the D-backs for the first time since his Major League debut on April 11, when he was tagged for four earned runs and took the loss. Arizona will start Patrick Corbin (6-3, 3.24).

Martin Oppegaard is a reporter for MLB.com based in the Bay Area.

San Francisco Giants, Chris Stratton