Toronto's future on display behind Stroman gem

July 20th, 2019

DETROIT -- Marcus Stroman got another glimpse of the Blue Jays’ future on Friday night in Detroit. It was a future filled with run support, where the young cornerstones of tomorrow had already reached their tomorrows and were capable of making the other team look like the rebuilding side.

For Stroman, the 12-1 win is also expected to be one of his last looks at a future in Toronto that he won’t be a part of. Comerica Park was packed with scouts from contending teams who could be interested in Stroman, one of the top pitchers available ahead of the July 31 Trade Deadline, but even with the right-hander turning in one of his best performances of the season, it was Toronto’s young bats who stole the show.

The offense wasn’t always pretty, but it didn’t need to be. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. entered the game hitting just 8-for-45 (.178) in July without a home run, but singled three times and drove in a run. His first two base hits were softly hit, with exit velocities of 77.6 mph and 80.9 mph according to Statcast, but he balanced that out on his third knock with the second-hardest-hit ball of the game (109.9 mph).

“I think these guys are going to be -- all of them -- big-time, big-time big leaguers,” Stroman said after the win. “It’s just a matter of taking it day by day, taking the ups and downs and learning. Vladdy has been struggling a little bit, but every single person in the clubhouse knows how dangerous he is every single time he steps in the box.”

Guerrero capped it off with the glove in the seventh inning, when he went to his backhand to snag a John Hicks grounder and fired across the diamond just in time. On the mound was Stroman, both arms raised in the air. 

“I think he’s getting his confidence back,” Teoscar Hernandez said of Guerrero. “When you’re not doing well like him for a couple of games a couple of weeks ago, you try a lot of things. He was thinking too much. We always talk about [how] to get him back to the way he swings, the way Vladdy Guerrero Jr. is.”

Hernandez ripped his 12th home run of the season to spark a five-run sixth -- his ninth in 31 games since returning from Triple-A Buffalo -- but that solo shot was Toronto’s only homer of the night. Otherwise, the Blue Jays’ lineup landed plenty of jabs and did well to string their hits together, which has been a struggle at many points in 2019.

“It’s really different,” Hernandez said. “At the beginning [of the season] I lost confidence trying to do too much. I was trying a lot of different things I’m not used to doing. Now, I feel like it’s me.”

All nine batters reached base on Friday with seven reaching multiple times. Some of that required in-game adjustments, just not the type you’re accustomed to seeing.

Danny Jansen, who started the day with a mustache and shaved after starting 0-for-3, singled home a pair in his first clean-shaven plate appearance.

“We were kind of matching as battery mates out there,” Stroman said, rubbing his own mustache. “But whatever to get knocks. He shaved it off and had a double-RBI single. Whatever for knocks.”

Stroman was, behind all of the offensive fireworks, excellent. There was some hard contact early before the 28-year-old right-hander settled into his groove, but he cruised through seven shutout innings with five strikeouts and zero walks.

The trademark Stroman swagger was on full display, too. He was clearly comfortable, working his deep arsenal at different speeds all night while mixing in plenty of hesitation moves and even a sidearm slot at one point. It’s difficult for Stroman to show teams something they don’t already know at this point but, as he’s so often done in a Blue Jays uniform, Stroman stood in the spotlight and raised the bar.

“I’ve got a lot of stuff in there,” Stroman said, “but I’m keeping some of it in store.”