By Jon Weisman
Tie game, bases loaded, two out, full count.
Sometimes, the biggest moment of the game comes in the bottom of the ninth. For Ross Stripling and the Dodgers today, it was the top of the first.
Boston backstop Sandy Leon, who had four RBI the night before, stood in. After missing with a changeup to force the full count, Stripling went right back to it. And Leon hit a soft grounder between the mound and first base that Stripling fielded and passed along to first base.
After taking 25 pitches to retire the side for the first time today, Stripling needed only 50 more to complete five innings in what would become a 3-0 victory over the Red Sox.
In his first big-league start since May 19, Stripling made his finest since holding Toronto to a run over six innings May 8, lowering his ERA to 3.79. After allowing five baserunners with four strikeouts, Stripling has a 0.64 WHIP, 0.64 ERA and 13 strikeouts in 14 innings vs. the three American League East teams he has faced this year.
Singles by Adrián González, Kiké Hernández and A.J. Ellis for a run in the second inning gave Stripling the thinnest margin for error to work with, but his cushion improved after he left the game for pinch-hitter Chris Taylor in the bottom of the fifth. Following Taylor’s single and Howie Kendrick’s walk, the Dodgers scored twice more on hits by Corey Seager (on his Dodger rookie-record 31st double) and González.
Rookie lefty Grant Dayton impressed in his second outing for the Dodgers even more than his first, striking out four of the seven batters he faced in two shutout innings. The 28-year-old Dayton now has four hitless shutout innings in the big leagues with six whiffs.
Stripling and Dayton kept David Ortiz hitless in three at-bats, though in his first game at first base since August 30, 2015, the soon-to-retire 40-year-old made two fine defensive plays. Frankly, there was good defense all around today, with Kendrick and Seager sparkling in particular.
With a scoreless inning each, Joe Blanton and Kenley Jansen (who struck out the side) wrapped up the Dodgers’ 10th shutout in 110 games this season.