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Giants at Padres, 9/19: Rule of three

Chris Stratton keeps twirlin against Robbie Erlin (LHP).

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at San Diego Padres Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

RIP Brandon Belt. I can’t quite explain it, but he’s been my favorite Giant all these years, even though the team has had Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, Madison Bumgarner, Hunter Strickland, and Nick Hundley all these years. He’s been the best hitter on the team over the past few seasons and I think his quiet confidence and unassuming attitude felt genuine and different enough that I couldn’t help but appreciate (over-appreciate?) him.

It’s not often when the top athletes feel like guys you’d want to hang out with — I definitely would’ve liked to hang out one night with him. I don’t think about going out with Buster Posey because he seems like an early to bed kind of guy who doesn’t like to see rated R movies or cuss in mixed company.

But back to Brandon Belt... it’s fair to say his career is at a crossroads, even though he’s going to get paid these next few years regardless of what happens to him. He is a now fully formed “injury dude”, and those guys don’t tend to fair well in the minds of the industry insiders.

And now let’s turn our attention to tonight’s game. The Giants aren’t guaranteed to sweep tonight, but we still may need to retire the “Padres are only good against the Giants” mentality. Since 2011, the Giants have gone 6-2 in the season series, and have won 3 of the last 4. That doesn’t mean the Padres aren’t unbelievably annoying — incredibly so — but they’re not some baseball Rubik’s Cube the Giants have been unable to solve.


There’s no logical reason why Aramis Garcia has just become the de facto first baseman now that Brandon Belt’s season is over, but here we are. It’s very difficult for me to not go on and on and on about how Bruce Bochy clearly sees himself in every backup catcher and how he has consistently overvalued his backup catchers over the years and, clearly, inflated their skill level in his mind. Aramis Garcia is not worse than Nick Hundley, who’s a solid average backstop at best.

Also, there’s a very good chance he’s not on the team next year, so this could all be about giving the 35-year old as much playing time to avoid receiving only a Spring Training invite/non-guaranteed deal in the offseason, since it’s pretty clear that Garcia will remain in the Giants plans next season in some capacity... unless there’s some big trade where they sacrifice their organization’s thin depth at catcher to gain a 30+-year old outfielder, which, which — haha — come on. The Giants would never do that. Never.

Anyway, I need to remind you all once again that this site does not hate Nick Hundley. But he has started a conspicuous number of games in a row.

Franmil Reyes and Francisco Mejia in the lineup tonight — here you go, folks. The sweet nectar of the tank now playing for your viewing pleasure.

Chris Stratton (10-9, 4.34 FIP) pitched the Giants’ only complete game (and CGSO) of the season in his previous start against the hapless Colorado Rockies and looked simply marvelous in doing so.

On last night’s Post-Game Wrap, “the guys” joked that if Stratton has another great start tonight that Ryan Vogelsong should get a bonus. That’s hard to deny, given the general results. I think there’s an added incentive for Stratton himself to perform well tonight: in three career starts against the Padres (stretching back to last September), he has an 0.92 ERA in 19.2 innings pitched. From a Pitcher’s Pride standpoint, keeping that tiny ERA tiny seems like a good thing for the ego. The Padres, of course, might have their own ideas about how they want Stratton to do tonight, but he’s got to think he’ll do well if he just puts forth his best effort.

Robbie Erlin (3-7, 3.26 FIP) has completed six innings only once in his last seven starts (August 15th against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim) and last faced the Giants in 2014. Yes, of course, the reason why is because he had Tommy John surgery, which knocked him out for all of 2017.

The Padres have really slow-played him as he makes his way back this season, limiting him to 4-6 relief appearances per month until last month, when they converted him back over to a starter. He has a 5.49 ERA in 39.1 innings pitched as a starter with a 31:4 strikeout to walk ratio. Batters have a .762 OPS on a .362 BAbip. He has five pitches (4-seam fastball, 2-seam fastball/sinker, curveball, changeup, and slider) but relies predominantly on his fastball(s), throwing his 4-seam and 2-seam/sinker a combined 60.6% of the time and doesn’t average more than 90 mph on either. His curveball serves as his outpitch, with a 30.3% Whiff Rate.

He’s, uh, also left-handed, the Giants’ weakness.