Reliever allows Gonzalez's go-ahead shot before Giants walk off in 10th
By Mark Chiarelli
SAN FRANCISCO -- Standing at the very end of a well-used and beleaguered Giants bullpen was rookie Chris Stratton, who entered Saturday's 5-4 walk-off win over the Dodgers in the 10th inning and attempted to maintain what was a tie game.
Adrian Gonzalez took the second pitch he saw -- a slider that Stratton believed the slugger was waiting for -- the opposite way for a go-ahead homer, briefly taking a 4-3 lead. Stratton responded, getting three straight outs to end the inning after an ensuing Trayce Thompson single. And luckily for Stratton, no lead lasted long Saturday night.
The Giants rallied in the bottom of the inning for two runs, the game-winner coming on an RBI single by Buster Posey, sending AT&T Park into a frenzy. The most excited person in the ballpark? Stratton himself, who earned his first career Major League victory and a surprise beer shower from his teammates in celebration.
"Definitely, they saved me there," he said. "Getting a loss is always the worst, especially when it's on this stage and against your rival. There's nothing worse than that. They came through for me and that was huge."
Stratton was frustrated with himself for blowing the lead. But it was his ability to settle down and get out of the inning that caught the eye of teammates and manager Bruce Bochy, who said Saturday's win was the team's most exciting victory of the season.
"I thought Stratton did a nice job after giving up the homer maintaining his composure," Posey said. "That inning could have easily spiraled out of control. For him to limit it to one run was really important."
"He's a tough kid," Bochy said. "That's not the first time Gonzalez has taken somebody the other way. But he regrouped. ... He could have gotten unraveled, but he kept his poise."
If Saturday's game was prolonged, Bochy was sticking with Stratton, who Bochy said could've gone six, seven, even eight innings. He didn't have many options, either, after he mixed and matched his way through the seventh inning, using Derek Law, Josh Osich, Hunter Strickland, Javier Lopez and Cory Gearrin, hoping to preserve to a 3-2 lead.
But Lopez walked Adrian Gonzalez with two outs to load the bases. Bochy then summoned Gearrin, who walked Thompson to tie the game.
"I'm not a big fan of that, to be honest," Bochy said. "I was going for the matchups trying to keep it 3-2. I think we walked three that inning, but I was trying to hold on to the lead."
San Francisco's bullpen had posted a 4.11 ERA over its last 15 games entering Saturday and had blown five of its last six save opportunities. Those struggles were magnified Friday night when closer Santiago Casilla gave up a go-ahead homer to Justin Turner in the ninth inning, and for an instant it appeared Stratton and Co. were headed down that path again in the final inning.
But Stratton wasn't shaken by Gonzalez's homer -- saying he believed he made a solid pitch despite the unfavorable result -- and did enough to keep the Giants close. And right now, after the bullpen's current stretch, they'll take it.
"You just have to bear down after that," he said. "You have to give your team a chance at the end. The guys pulled through for me."
Mark Chiarelli is a reporter for MLB.com based in the Bay Area. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.