San Francisco Giants starter Chris Stratton came into the season as the fourth starter. So far, he has pitched well enough to keep the Giants in all of his games. However, Thursday was his best start as he was nearly unhittable.
Chris Stratton relies on an elite-level curveball to be effective. Going into this start, he was using it for only 18 percent of his pitches. Opposing players were batting .135 against this pitch. This is a pitch batters have trouble hitting, and it would be nice if he threw it more often.
Stratton had good command of his curveball, and that was not good news for the Padres lineup. In the Padres defense, their lineup was missing a few pieces due to injuries. So, Stratton certainly had the advantage. A handful of Padres batters were batting below .250 prior to Thursday’s game, which is not good in my expert opinion.
Stratton was very stingy Thursday night with the hits he gave up. In fact, he only gave up one hit in seven innings. That hit came off of the bat of a pitcher who was pinch-hitting for another pitcher. Kudos to Padres Manager Andy Green for having a pinch-hitting pitcher get the only hit of the game.
However, the concern with Chris Stratton can be his command at times. He gave away three free passes, but it could have been much worse.
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In the midst of his stellar start, Stratton struggled to put away both Carlos Asuaje and Austin Hedges in the fifth inning. In the span of these two at-bats, Stratton had to throw over 20 pitches, and almost did not get an out against either hitter. Both Asuaje and Hedges worked a full count while fouling off several of Stratton’s offerings.
Stratton ended up walking Asuaje, but managed to get Hedges to fly out. This was a key moment in the game because the Giants still only had a three-run lead, and the Padres were threatening to score.
Stratton remained composed, and managed to get out of the inning unscathed. With runners on base, and Stratton laboring to put away consecutive batters, it could have been much worse. The at-bats to Asuaje and Hedges were good challenges for Stratton, and he approached these challenges with poise.
Following this speed bump, Stratton completed two more innings without breaking a sweat. He had a stellar start, and perhaps, the best start of the year for the Giants thus far.
Stratton was nearly unhittable Thursday as the Padres barely made any hard contact. He is still somewhat of an enigma, but hopefully more starts like this gives us a better evaluation of Stratton.
The Giants need their young pitcher core, including Stratton, to grow and develop this season. Thursday’s start is one Stratton can certainly build some confidence on for future starts.