ANAHEIM -- In the coming days, the Blue Jays were going to have to decide who would be out of their starting rotation when they move from six starters to five. Tuesday’s split doubleheader at Angel Stadium featured an injury that made that choice for them.
The No. 5 spot in the rotation had come down to left-hander Steven Matz and right-hander Ross Stripling, the pair of hurlers who started the two games of the twin bill. And while the Blue Jays’ offense turned things around in Game 2 to beat the Angels, 4-0, Stripling threw only 28 pitches over two scoreless innings before exiting with a left oblique strain, which will cause him to miss his next start and potentially more.
Despite Stripling’s early departure, he and three Toronto relievers combined to hold the Halos to three hits over seven scoreless innings. The Blue Jays split the twin bill after losing Game 1, 6-3.
"The moment we lost Stripling, now we've got to see how we can get [five] innings," Toronto manager Charlie Montoyo said. “And our relievers did an outstanding job.”
Before Stripling took the mound, the Blue Jays already had a 2-0 lead as Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Teoscar Hernández each hit an RBI single in the first. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. added a pair of insurance runs with a two-run single in the sixth.
"You can never count our offense out," Montoyo said. "During today's day [game], we didn't hit, and we came out big in the second game."
Trevor Richards (two innings), Adam Cimber (two) and Jordan Romano (one) helped preserve the Blue Jays' early lead. The Angels loaded the bases with two outs in the ninth inning, but Romano struck out Halos two-way star Shohei Ohtani to end it.
“It was fun to finally face him,” said Cimber, who also fanned Ohtani in the fifth. “I hadn't faced him yet in my career, and somebody who's got that kind of talent, it's pretty special to be on the same field as that guy. It was a cool experience. I'm glad I won the battle.”
A battle that wasn’t won by the output, but rather by injury, was the No. 5 rotation spot. Matz, who allowed four runs (two earned) in 4 2/3 innings in the Game 1 loss, will start next time through the rotation.
Stripling is scheduled to undergo testing on the oblique on Wednesday.
“I don't want to speculate, because I don't know the severity of it," Montoyo said. "But he's not going to make his next start, that's for sure.”
It's a disappointing turn of events for Stripling, who had been pitching better during his recent outings. Over his past four starts, he was 2-0 with a 1.47 ERA, which lowered his season mark from 5.04 to 4.34.
Although Stripling has worked primarily as a starter since arriving in Toronto via a trade with the Dodgers at the 2020 Trade Deadline, he has past success as a reliever, too. In fact, the 31-year-old has a 4.16 ERA in 384 2/3 innings as a starter and a 3.10 ERA in 145 frames in relief.
Matz has been a starter for the majority of his career, with only five of his 132 outings coming in relief. Although he has a 4.32 ERA in his 127 career starts, one stat he's improved this season is his barrel rate, which was at 5.9 percent entering Tuesday.
Now that Stripling is out indefinitely, Matz will continue to start for the Blue Jays and try to help lead them into the postseason.