San Francisco Giants: Action-Packed Friday Night Ends with a Bang

Apr 8, 2016; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford (35) hits a solo home run against the Los Angeles Dodgers to end the game in the tenth inning at AT&T Park. The Giants won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 8, 2016; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford (35) hits a solo home run against the Los Angeles Dodgers to end the game in the tenth inning at AT&T Park. The Giants won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports /

It took a while, but the San Francisco Giants ended Friday night with a bang.

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Friday night didn’t start well for the San Francisco Giants. They were baffled by curveballs and changeups from Ross Stripling, a 26-year-old rookie for the Los Angeles Dodgers that had never even pitched in Triple-A. He won a job in the Dodgers’ rotation after an injury-marred Spring Training for the team, and on Friday, he didn’t have the look of a player making his first career start at the big league level.

Over 7.1 innings, Stripling kept Giants’ hitter off balance, the same hitters that erupted on Thursday for 17 hits in their second 12-run effort in four games. He retired the first 10 Giants in order, before walking Joe Panik and Hunter Pence with one out in the fourth. Regaining his composure, Stripling set down the next two hitters, Brandon Belt and Matt Duffy, with no problems. The night’s unexpected star allowed a leadoff walk in the seventh inning to Pence, but coaxed a double play ball off Belt’s bat and got through the inning with a big, fat zero still in the Giants’ hit column.

The eighth inning is when things became whacky. Brandon Crawford flew out to Dodgers’ right fielder Yasil Puig to start the inning, and Angel Pagan followed by working another walk, Stripling’s fourth of the evening. With Stripling at 100 pitches, new Dodgers’ manager Dave Roberts made a tough decisions. Roberts took the long walk to the mound, and was met with boos that fell harder than the rain that dampened the field. In his first career start, Stripling was pulled despite allowing no hits, giving way to Chris Hatcher, the Dodgers’ setup man.

Hatcher’s first opponent was Trevor Brown, starting at catcher to give Buster Posey a well-earned day off. Brown worked the count to 3-1, and Hatcher threw a 95 mile-per-hour fastball right down the pipe. Brown ripped the ball to left-center field, slicing it through the soggy night and into the bleachers to break the no-hitter, the shutout, and the deficit all in one swing of the bat.

Hatcher voiced his displeasure with home plate umpire Jeff Kellogg and his strike zone during the next at-bat, during which he walked pinch-hitter Ehire Adrianza. Roberts charged the field again, and was ejected for the first time in his managerial career. That second trip to the field still wasn’t quite as bad as the first in the eighth inning.

The tie lasted through the end of regulation, and the Giants and Dodgers went to extra innings for the first, but probably not last, time this year. Javier Lopez worked a clean two-thirds of an inning before Santiago Casilla got the last out to send the game to the bottom of the 10th still deadlocked at a pair apiece. Joe Blanton was the Dodgers’ fourth pitcher of the night, but his outing lasted just two pitches. After a first-pitch ball to Crawford, Blanton’s second pitch was a fastball up and out over the plate, and Crawford crushed it the other way, following a similar flight path to Brown’s home run before landing in the bleachers and sending the crowd into a frenzy.

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Two hits. That’s all the Giants could muster on Friday night. Somehow, they won by getting just those two hits, turning them into three runs to beat their arch-rivals.

Stripling stole the show (for the first seven innings, at least), but his counterpart, a veteran that trumped Stripling’s experince, was on the mound as he began another comeback attempt. Matt Cain has gone from ace to fifth starter, but Friday gave a glimpse that just maybe that ace is still in Cain somewhere. Over six innings, Cain allowed six hits and two runs, holding that high-powered Dodgers’ offense off the board in five of his six frames.

Last year in his brief time in the rotation, Cain was plagued by an inability to control his pitches the way he needs to. That wasn’t the case on Friday, as Cain was able to spot his pitches like he was back in the late 2000’s. Like Stripling, he was able to keep the Dodgers’ lineup off balance, even forcing a weak swing from Adrian Gonzalez that right-handers rarely can get.

It’s only one start for Cain, but to see him start to look like he might be able to become a solid starter again is a sight for sore eyes.

And the good news kept coming after the game, when it was announced that Belt and the Giants had agreed on a five-year extension. Let the good times roll!

Next: Confessions of a Bandwagon Giants' Fan

Stripling has allowed one run in his career while allowing no runs. The Giants scored three runs to beat the Giants on two hits. Baseball is the most unpredictable sport, but you can’t help but love it.