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The weakest link

Early home runs by Diamondbacks against Ross Stripling erased a Giants lead and forced San Francisco’s bats against the wall in Friday’s 7 -5 loss

Milwaukee Brewers v San Francisco Giants Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

Ross Stripling worked fast on Friday night.

Single, walk, 3-pitch K, and 3-run blast. 16 pitches in and the San Francisco Giants early 3-run lead was eliminated in the bottom of the 2nd. Dominic Fletcher, the #15 prospect in the Diamondbacks organization and Arizona’s own Casey Schmitt, roped a stagnant slider 428 feet for his first career home run.

In the 3rd, two quick outs and two quick strikes on Evan Longoria before the former Giant pushed Stripling to a 9th pitch inside fastball that he pulled down the left field line for the Arizona lead.

The pitch to Longoria wasn’t bad—the veteran just got around on it, but his slider to Fletcher in the 2nd will never cut the mustard to a big leaguer. It just didn’t do anything. It wrinkled too early then flat-lined with no late-life movement, and ultimately entered the batter’s swing path as docile as an 87 MPH fastball.

Those two blasts proved to be the consequential swings for the Arizona Diamondbacks in their 7 - 5 win Friday night. In a bullpen game of John Brebbia, Stripling, Jakob Junis, Alex Wood, and Scott Alexander—none were perfect, but Stripling was the weakest link.

Over 3.1 IP, he allowed 4 runs on 5 hits while walking 2, striking out 2 and allowing 2 home runs.

Sean Manaea and Stripling seem to be in a free fall wrestling match to see who collides with the ground first. Stripling’s BB% is much better than Manaea’s, but his expected slugging is comparably terrible while not getting as many strikeouts. Both get hit hard and both have struggled avoiding barrels.

Longo’s was the 10th ding allowed on the season—which means Stripling has cracked the fairly dubious rate of 3 home runs allowed every 9 innings (3.10). For perspective, he gave up 12 in 134 innings with Toronto, good for a rate of 0.8 HR per 9. His current HR/9 is the 3rd highest in the Majors (min 20 IP); his line drive percentage (27.8%) is 7th highest; his home run to flyball rate (38.5% HR/FB) is the highest.

All those literally “inside baseball” numbers just point to the obvious. There’s no more efficient way to score in baseball than home runs and right now Stripling is a freeway on-ramp for opposing teams to do damage in ball games against the Giants.

San Francisco’s bats nearly knocked Arizona’s starter Ryne Nelson out in the 2nd with the young starter surrendering a 2-run line shot to Joc Pederson in the 1st, a solo shot by Michael Conforto on the 12th pitch of the at-bat to lead-off the 2nd, but he dodged a 5 - 0 deficit by 10 feet when LaMonte Wade Jr. flied out to deep right-center for the final out of the inning.

Nelson worked a scoreless 3rd and 4th while his compatriots tied and took the lead, which lasted an inning before J.D. Davis scored Wade with a 2-out single in the 5th and ushered Nelson from the mound.

The scales tipped back towards Arizona against Jakob Junis in the 6th. After relieving Stripling with one out in the 5th, Junis worked himself into trouble by walking Nick Ahmed before Gabriel Moreno singled with one out. Conforto missed an opportunity to pick off Ahmed from right after he rounded second on Moreno’s single. The free base and extra life, as always, immediately hurt San Francisco when Fletcher slapped a double and drove in his fourth RBI of the day, setting up 2nd and 3rd and less than two outs.

In the strikeout situation, Junis got Ketel Marte looking on a letter-high, inside fastball. But a passed ball by catcher Blake Sabol on the very next pitch allowed the runner to score from third anyway.

Sabol has adapted surprisingly well to the big league backstop position. Baseball Savant has even given him a little pinkish M&M in regards to his pitch framing. Still, there are moments when you’re reminded he’s still a spring chicken. All the catcher’s interferences for example. Or the passed ball with a runner on third—so eager to frame a wayward slider above the zone, snapping the mitt down to belt level, that he forgot to catch the pitch.

Arizona tacked on another run in the 7th against Alex Wood.

Wood, who hasn’t pitched since April 18th, gave up a bloop double off the hands of Josh Rojas before Lourdes Gurriel Jr. peppered a 2-out double off the giant batter’s eye in dead center.

The double would’ve been a homer in every other ball park in the Majors. Good for San Francisco in that instance, but I imagine the general feeling in the Giants dugout was they’d rather be somewhere else. Wade’s 2nd inning fly out recorded traveled 400 plus feet. Mitch Haniger launched the baseball about 800 feet between two at-bats and returned to the dugout with nothing to show for either.

Down 3-runs in the 8th, Casey Schmitt (!) lined an opposite field double that scored Pederson from second and put Conforto at third. With the tying run in scoring position, Wilmer Flores and his excellent bat-to-ball skills pinch hit for Blake Sabol against the LHP Andrew Chafin.

With the rally near boiling, the D’Backs switched off the burner. On the first pitch he saw, Flores grounded out to the shortstop, freezing both runners, and Bryce Johnson, pinch-hitting for Brett Wisely, struck out on 4 pitches.

Combined both teams put nearly 60 balls in play. The Giants collected 11 hits with 4 doubles and 2 HR while Arizona knocked 12 hits with 3 doubles and 2 HR. You’d think your chances are better than not to win a game in which both Pederson and Conforto homer, and Davis and Wade both collect 3-hits, and the team scores 5 runs. It didn’t happen in this one, and the bats weren’t the problem.

In a game decided by 2-runs, it’s hard not to point to the opponent’s 3-run homer as the problem. The woes of Ross Stripling continue.