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Stripling's stellar start ends Dodgers' skid

@kengurnick
April 14, 2019

LOS ANGELES -- Starter Ross Stripling joked (maybe) that he pitched efficiently on Sunday to make sure everybody got home in time to watch “Game of Thrones,” which he called “priority one.” As an added benefit, he also stopped the Dodgers’ six-game losing streak and rested a weary bullpen by

LOS ANGELES -- Starter Ross Stripling joked (maybe) that he pitched efficiently on Sunday to make sure everybody got home in time to watch “Game of Thrones,” which he called “priority one.”

As an added benefit, he also stopped the Dodgers’ six-game losing streak and rested a weary bullpen by allowing one run on four hits over eight innings in a 7-1 win over Milwaukee, the first quality start for the club since he allowed three runs in six innings on April 3. Joc Pederson and Alex Verdugo, who had three RBIs, homered in an 11-hit attack.

This is the second year Stripling has served as the primary reinforcement to a starting rotation emergency. With Clayton Kershaw (for one more day), Rich Hill and Hyun-Jin Ryu on the injured list, Stripling raced in from the bullpen to the rescue.

Perhaps you remember that happening last year, when Stripling rode a similar opportunity right onto the National League All-Star team. Or perhaps you remember better a very different Stripling in the second half, the one who faded down the stretch and was invisible in October.

Stripling remembers both.

“You never want your teammates, and those are our studs, to get hurt, but I’m proud to be the guy they’ve counted on last year and so far this year to take the ball every fifth day and try to get a win,” Stripling said.

“But it’s very much a ‘what have you done for me lately’ sport. I didn’t make the playoff roster. That’s the first thing I think of, so I know that’s the first thing other people think of. So that was kind of the thing in Spring Training, to make sure I put it back in other people’s minds -- but also for me to get my confidence back -- knowing that the second half was the fluke, not the first half, and I can get guys out.”

And Stripling had some more recent demons to navigate, coming off a loss in St. Louis on Tuesday when he allowed four runs and three walks in five innings. He said pitching coach Rich Honeycutt helped him with lower-body mechanics to lengthen his stride, and Dodgers manager Dave Roberts noted increased velocity and life as a result.

“Whatever they did,” Roberts said, “certainly worked.”

Stripling benefitted by the combination of throwing plenty of strikes and the Brewers’ early-count aggressiveness. He retired the first batter of every inning except the eighth, retired 10 consecutive batters at one point and threw only 88 pitches. The Dodgers, who lead the league in innings pitched by their bullpen, needed only one.

“He’s a control guy, four-pitch mix. He had it going today,” said Brewers catcher and former Dodgers batterymate Yasmani Grandal. “Making good pitches, soft contact, getting ahead of the count, fairly soft contact, his pitch count just stayed down. It was his day today. Sometimes you just gotta tip the cap.”

It was Stripling’s longest start since he was yanked from a no-hitter in the eighth inning of his MLB debut against the Giants three years ago. The timing was crucial, as the Dodgers used the bullpen for all nine innings on Saturday night.

“It is what I ordered,” Roberts said. “Ross was really good, the way he and [catcher] Austin [Barnes] were in sync today, as good as any pitcher-catcher combo before today. Got ahead of hitters, kept them off-balance, induced a lot of soft contact. Ross understood our situation.”

The offense supported Stripling with runs in four of the first five innings. On Saturday night, for the first time all season, the Dodgers didn’t draw a walk and they were held to one run. In the first inning on Sunday they walked twice and scored twice on Verdugo’s two-out single.

They went back to slugging in the second inning with Pederson’s towering two-out homer that just made it into the right-field box seats, his sixth. That extended the club record of at least one homer in 29 consecutive home games dating to last year, three shy of the 1999 Colorado Rockies’ National League record.

Max Muncy’s RBI single drove in Cody Bellinger, who walked for the second time, and Chris Taylor’s two-run one-out single in the third inning finished Milwaukee starter Jhoulys Chacin’s day. Verdugo homered to start the fifth inning against reliever Chase Anderson.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.