ST. LOUIS -- Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman makes a living off his electric arm. But on Tuesday night, it was his bat that made an impression.
Stroman became the first pitcher in franchise history to successfully record a pinch-hit when he doubled to the left-field corner during the 11th inning of Toronto's 6-5 win over the Cardinals. That marked the first hit of Stroman's big league career, but more importantly, it eventually led to the winning run.
The 25-year-old Stroman lobbied for this type of opportunity, but it was never expected to become a reality. That changed when the Blue Jays ran out of bench players.
"He has been talking the last two, three weeks because he knew the way things were lined up, he wasn't going to get a start here," manager John Gibbons said. "Talking about, 'I can hit, I can hit. I want to pinch-run,' blah, blah, blah.
"I said, 'Well, you never know, but don't count on it.' Sure enough, he was waiting in that dugout and the time came, and he went out there. He didn't look real good, and then, he hung him a breaking ball, I think it was, and he hooked it."
Stroman often likes to talk about his hitting prowess, and he does have a resume that backs some of it up. He appeared in 97 games as a position player at Duke University, hitting .252 (76-for-301) with two homers, 19 doubles, four triples and 35 RBIs. There's clearly some ability in his bat, but it's not very often he gets to showcase it. This was the exception.
Stroman pinch-hit for reliever Jason Grilli with one out in the 11th and quickly fell behind 0-2. But then, he fouled off a 92.6-mph fastball to stay alive, and then, took a ball to make the count 1-2. That's when he got a poorly located off-speed pitch from Miguel Socolovich and sent it into the left-field corner.
Kevin Pillar popped out for the second out of the inning, before Steve Pearce hit a grounder to shortstop. That should have been the final out of the inning, but Cardinals shortstop Aledmys Diaz made an errant throw that got away from first baseman Jose Martinez. Stroman initially paused while rounding third, but once he saw the ball skip away from Martinez, he trotted home for the winning run.
Stroman's double was the first pinch-hit by an American League pitcher that went for extra bases since Boston's Gary Peters on Sept. 4, 1971. It's worth noting that was before the designated hitter, and Peters was used to batting, as he received 101 plate appearances that season. The last AL pitcher to do it in extra innings was Detroit's Earl Wilson, who hit a walk-off homer in 1966.
"Just trying to be a spark," Stroman said. "Trying to do anything I can just to get on base and get our guys going. I'm always in the cage with [Josh Donaldson], [Troy Tulowitzki], [Jose] Bautista, [Ryan] Goins, Pillar, so I feel like I have a pretty good sense of what's going on. Just being competitive and having fun out there."