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Familiar result strikes Stroman in last start of season

MLB.com

TORONTO -- Marcus Stroman's first full regular season in the Major Leagues came to an end in Thursday night's 4-0 loss to the Orioles.

Although the season was a bag full of mixed results, Stroman is still integral to what the Blue Jays hope to achieve should they reach the postseason.

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TORONTO -- Marcus Stroman's first full regular season in the Major Leagues came to an end in Thursday night's 4-0 loss to the Orioles.

Although the season was a bag full of mixed results, Stroman is still integral to what the Blue Jays hope to achieve should they reach the postseason.

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The 25-year-old has turned his season around after a rough stretch in the middle of the year, but despite the improved performance, Thursday's end result has become an all too familiar one for the young right-hander.

Toronto lost for the fifth time in Stroman's last six starts. In that period of time, Stroman has allowed more than three earned runs just once, while also going at least six innings in all but one of those outings. Stroman quietly became the first Blue Jays starter to reach the 200-inning plateau on Thursday, an important milestone that hasn't kept him from slowing down.

"Yeah, it's cool," Stroman said. "It's not something I'm really thinking about right now. But that was one of the goals coming into the year. At this point I just need to do everything I can to keep our team in the game to win, and I didn't do that."

The Duke product didn't receive an abundance of run support in September -- Toronto provided him just five runs while getting shut out in four of his six starts this month -- but Stroman has continued to find his way and provide steady performances in a crowded Blue Jays rotation.

"I think he's had a great year," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said before Thursday's game. "He had that struggle early in the year, but other than that, he's been as steady as can be. I think he's really picked it up here this last month. He's closing in on 200 innings, but he's a guy everyone has always thought could do that, and now he's proven that."

A potential postseason rotation will likely feature Aaron Sanchez, Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ, with Francisco Liriano's recent performance likely landing him the role as Toronto's fourth starter in the playoffs.

If that's the case, Stroman would be a logical candidate to take over in a bullpen role, an area which has sorely lacked for the Blue Jays of late. With a left calf injury to Joaquin Benoit, and heavy workloads for veteran Jason Grilli and closer Roberto Osuna, Stroman -- who closed in college -- provides the Blue Jays a shot at providing length, and he brings with him the Major Leagues' highest ground-ball rate.

For now, Stroman's mindset remains on Boston, where Toronto will look to clinch a second straight postseason berth as it enters play Friday with a magic number of three. Despite losing three out of the last four games, Stroman remained optimistic about the Blue Jays' playoff chances.

"The team mentality has never changed before," Stroman said. "We're fine. We're fine. We'll take the same mentality and the same confidence into Boston, and hopefully we'll go in there and get some wins. But it hasn't changed from the beginning. It was the same exact confidence we had going into Texas down 2-0 [in the AL Division Series] last year."

Alykhan Ravjiani is a reporter for MLB.com based in Toronto.

Toronto Blue Jays, Marcus Stroman