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Giants' unlikely staff anchor starts series opener vs. Marlins

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San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy. File photo by Kamil Krzaczynski/UPI | License Photo

By The Sports Xchange, UPI

At the start of this season, nobody thought Chris Stratton would be the ace of the San Francisco Giants' staff.

But with injuries to Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija, that's exactly how it has worked out.

Bumgarner, who took a no-decision in San Francisco's 7-5 loss to the Miami Marlins on Monday night, came off the disabled list last week. Cueto and Samardzija are still on the injured list.

But while those injuries have been occurring to the horses of San Francisco's rotation, Stratton (7-3, 4.63 ERA) has stepped to the front of the class, taking the ball for 13 starts.

On Tuesday night, Stratton, a 27-year-old right-hander from Mississippi State and San Francisco's first-round pick (20th overall) in 2012, will start against Marlins rookie right-hander Trevor Richards.

And if Stratton's trend holds up, Tuesday should be good for him because he will be at Marlins Park. In other words, Stratton has a 5.45 ERA at home and a 3.86 ERA on the road. Batters are hitting .316 against him at home but just .206 on the road.

In his brief career since making his major-league debut in 2016, Stratton is 12-7 overall with a 4.15 ERA. During that span, he is 8-2 at home, but his ERA is 4.54 in San Francisco, significantly higher than his road mark of 3.76. He has never faced the Marlins, but, even so, he is obviously comfortable on the road.

"He came into this season as our No. 4 starter," Giants manager Bruce Bochy told the media recently. "But he's been our No. 1 guy."

Richards, 25, is of a similar age to Stratton, but their stories are completely different.

While Stratton was a first-round pick from a Power Five school, Richards played for Drury University and went undrafted -- getting overlooked for 40 rounds while 1,200 players were selected.

Richards, who is 0-3 with a 5.02 ERA in six starts, is striking out 8.8 batters per nine innings. But his walk rate of 4.4 is high, and he has allowed four homers in 28 2/3 innings.

He went from Drury -- an NCAA Division II school in Missouri -- to the independent leagues and then the low end of the Marlins' organization, working his way up little by little.

"The Frontier League gave me my first opportunity after college," said Richards, who nearly quit baseball before being signed by the Marlins' organization. "That last year of Indy ball was going to be it if nothing happened."

Richards is happy he stuck with it, and now he continues hunting for his first major-league win. On Tuesday, he will face a Giants lineup that includes Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford.

Posey leads the National League All-Star voting at catcher and is searching for his fourth start at the Midsummer Classic. He went 2-for-5 on Monday and is batting .297 this season.

Crawford leads NL voting at shortstop and entered this series batting .439 since May 1, the best average in the majors during that span. He went 0-for-3 on Monday but is still hitting .333 for the season.

Miami's best All-Star candidate is catcher J.T. Realmuto, who is batting .301 after nearly hitting for the cycle on Monday. He went 3-for-4 with his seventh homer of the season, his 13th double and a single. He also drove in two runs.

Marlins rookie right fielder Brian Anderson, who is hitting .310, also barely missed the cycle on Monday. He went 3-for-4 with his fourth homer of the season and two doubles, giving him 18 two-baggers this season.


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