Blue Jays: The time Ross Stripling was in Tyler Gilbert’s historic shoes

Aug 5, 2021; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Ross Stripling (48) throws to first base to retire Cleveland Indians designated hitter Franmil Reyes (not shown) in the fourth inning at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 5, 2021; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Ross Stripling (48) throws to first base to retire Cleveland Indians designated hitter Franmil Reyes (not shown) in the fourth inning at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports /
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Tyler Gilbert made MLB history on the weekend, and that led me to learning that the Blue Jays’ Ross Stripling nearly pulled off the same during his rookie season back in 2016.

For those who missed it, Gilbert became just the 4th pitcher to throw a no-hitter in their first big league start, and the first since Bobo Holloman in 1953, with the other two times coming in 1891 and 1892. This is rare air, and a feat that many of us may never witness again in our lifetime.

While reading a bit more about Gilbert’s incredible debut, I stumbled on a tid bit of baseball trivia that I had forgotten about, or maybe missed altogether at the time. Back in 2016, current Blue Jays starter Ross Stripling was in the same position as Gilbert and was pulled with one out in the seventh inning rather than being given a chance to finish things off.

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Stripling was with the Los Angeles Dodgers at the time, and Dave Roberts was the manager that took him out when the right-hander reached 100 pitches. In Roberts’ defence, the Dodgers were in a close game with an important division rival in the San Francisco Giants, and the score was only 2-0 at the time. Stripling also walked a batter in the seventh, and admittedly was getting tired at that point in the outing.

As a rookie, Stripling said all the right things at the time, even going as far as to defend his manager’s decision and say that he thought it was the right call.

From Ken Gurnick of MLB.com in an article that was written back in 2016 when the near-miss took place for Stripling:

"“I thought it was the right choice,” Stripling said of Roberts removing him from his Major League debut with a no-hitter after 7 1/3 innings and exactly 100 pitches, in a game the Dodgers lost to the Giants, 3-2, in 10 innings Friday night. “I was tired; it was the right call. I think you could tell I was trending downwards. It was a tough decision for him. I certainly had no ill feelings toward him one bit.”"

In that article we’re also reminded that Stripling had Tommy John surgery back in 2014, and was still at the end stages of recovering from the procedure as he was breaking into the big leagues. Stripling also reiterates a few times that he was feeling tired when his manager decided to remove him, and acknowledged that it was “the right call to make” in a close game against an important team like the Giants. For reference, the Dodgers won the NL West with a record of 91-71 that season, and the Giants weren’t far behind at 87-75.

For what it’s worth, unfortunately the Giants would come back to win that game anyway and spoil Stripling’s first MLB win, even hitting a home run on the first pitch after his departure. Even still, it likely was the right call for a young pitcher just breaking into the league. We’ve seen what going too deep into a game in pursuit of a no-hitter or perfect game can do in the past, and that’s what the Roberts and the Dodgers wanted to avoid. I’m old enough to remember how Johan Santana’s career spiralled after his no-hitter, and so does his then-skipper Terry Collins, so I get where Roberts was coming from.

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That said, I’m sure when Stripling read about Tyler Gilbert’s historic first start that it likely took him back to his own debut, and just how close he got to doing the very same thing.