You might soon be able to bet on baseball in California, but there are some bets you would not have taken in spring training. You would have dismissed them as prop bets proposed by your wacky uncle.
The Milwaukee Brewers would have the best record in the National League? Not taking that bet.
The Dodgers would throw a no-hitter, with four pitchers, in a foreign country? Get out of here.
The Dodgers' two most effective starting pitchers would be Walker Buehler and Ross Stripling? Who in the name of Clayton Kershaw would take that bet?
For now — and for as long as they can ride this wave — the Dodgers would. With Kershaw on the disabled list, a minor league call-up and a long reliever have led the starting rotation as the Dodgers make their climb in the NL West, from the bottom up.
"Walker and Ross, out of spring training, were sixth and seventh on the depth chart," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "For those guys to play huge roles and keep us where we're at says a lot about those guys, and the organization."
Buehler has the hype, and the pedigree of a first-round draft pick.
Stripling might be best known for his "Chicken Strip" nickname, his status as a licensed stockbroker, and for getting removed from a no-hitter in his first major league start.
For the moment, the Dodgers know him as indispensable.
"He's been good in the bullpen. He's been good in the rotation," outfielder Matt Kemp said. "He's done a great job."
Stripling set a career high with 10 strikeouts on Friday, holding the San Diego Padres to one run over 6 2/3 innings of the Dodgers' 4-1 victory.
The Dodgers (23-27) won for the seventh time in eight games, in the process closing within a half-game of third-place San Francisco.
There was not much suspense on this night. The Dodgers had all the runs they would need before they made an out.
Chris Taylor and Justin Turner each walked to start the bottom of the first inning, and Kemp launched a home run into the left-field pavilion, good for a 3-0 lead. It was the first three-run home run struck by the Dodgers since April 16, and Kemp hit that one too.
"Maybe we need to hit some more," Kemp said with a chuckle. "I'll remember that. I'm going to tell the guys that tomorrow."
Kemp is batting .486 with runners in scoring position, the major league leader in that category. He is batting .338 overall, third in the league behind the similarly surprising Nick Markakis of the Atlanta Braves and Odubel Herrera of the Philadelphia Phillies.
Enrique Hernandez hit a home run in the third inning, the only other run the Dodgers scored, on an evening in which they had only five hits. Kenley Jansen worked the ninth inning for his 11th save; he has pitched 11 consecutive scoreless innings.
The Padres would not have scored at all but for Yasiel Puig, who misplayed a Manuel Margot double in the third inning and did not recover before Margot could take third base on the error. Margot scored on a groundout for an unearned run.
That left Stripling with a 1.74 ERA, third in the NL among pitchers with at least 40 innings, just ahead of defending Cy Young winner Max Scherzer. Stripling frankly assessed his chances of finishing the season with a better ERA than Scherzer.
"Probably not super great," Stripling said.
He's probably right, but you never know. Stripling has amplified his confidence by broadening his arsenal with two pitches — a back-door cutter he used last week to strike out Bryce Harper, and a 3-2 curve he used two weeks ago to strike out Joey Votto.
Stripling has struck out 29 batters since he last walked one.
He got to see Scherzer up close and personal last week, when the Dodgers were in Washington.
"I don't know if I can have that kind of aggression, like he has," Stripling said. "I think mine is a little bit more mellow. But he's certainly fun to watch.
"That guy is crazy."