Blue Jays support Stroman with early outburst
Toronto scores seven runs in first; prospect goes six strong innings
TORONTO -- It didn't take long to realize the Blue Jays had brought their best stuff to Saturday's game against the Royals.
After starting pitcher Marcus Stroman retired the Royals in order in the top of the first, the Blue Jays set a club record by having their first eight batters reach base to start the game. They scored seven runs in the opening frame for the first time since 2011, and a dozen on the afternoon -- all without hitting a homer -- to help Stroman earn the win in his first career Major League start.
All things considered, it was a pretty good day for the 23-year-old rookie as the Blue Jays downed the Royals, 12-2, at Rogers Centre.
"It was pretty special," said Stroman, who was recalled from Triple-A Buffalo to make the afternoon start. "From the second I went out to long toss before the game, walked out on the field and saw the dome open, a ton of people here. It was pretty special. That crowd we had, and how nice it was. To just go out there and get the win, and to have the team hit like they did."
And did they ever hit. The Blue Jays put up 14 hits on the afternoon, a day after they were held to a single run. And they did without the usual long ball. The team with the most home runs in the American League instead scattered nine singles and five doubles across the turf, and also drew four walks and three hit batsmen.
They came through with runners in scoring position (9-for-15), something they didn't do in Friday's 6-1 loss, when they were 0-for-10 with RISP.
"It's different than what we're used to doing," said Adam Lind, who went 3-for-5 with a pair of RBIs and is now hitting .351 on the season. "But Jose [Bautista] and Eddy [Encarnacion] have been so hot, you can see them trying to pitch around them. That creates opportunities for everyone else in the lineup"
On the other side of the ball, Stroman was solid. He pitched six innings and allowed one earned run on five hits with six strikeouts, improving to 2-0 on the season.
His first win came during his first stint with the Blue Jays, when he was pitching out of the bullpen, an experiment that lasted 6 1/3 innings over five outings before he was optioned back to the Bisons.
His instructions while back in the Minor Leagues were to stretch out as a starter, get his pitch count up and then wait for the call.
Asked if Stroman had earned another start, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said the answer was obvious.
"We'd be crazy not to. I'm dumb, but not stupid," quipped Gibbons. "I thought he was terrific, he got a bunch of strikeouts, he was attacking the zone, working fast. All of the things you expect of him. That's what we're looking for. For guys to step up, give us some innings."
Stroman cruised through most of his start. The only bump in the road came in the second, when he gave up three hits and allowed a run.
But otherwise, the Blue Jays' prospect was sound, recording perfect innings in the first and third while getting his mix of flyouts, groundouts and strikeouts along the way.
He worked with a steady diet of fastballs, complemented by a wipeout curveball that was "sharp today," said Stroman.
"I felt like I settled in pretty quickly," he said. "I felt it coming from my bullpen [session] before the game, and I just went out and attacked hitters, stayed in the zone and wanted to pitch deep into the game."
Kansas City starter Aaron Brooks was shelled in the loss. The 24-year-old lasted only two-thirds of an inning and gave up five hits and seven earned runs. He walked three batters and was relieved by Michael Mariot, who didn't fare much better, as he allowed six hits and four earned runs over 3 1/3 innings.
"I couldn't throw strikes for some reason," said Brooks. "I was trying to correct some stuff out there, and it's a little difficult to be out there in that stage and also try to fix what's not going right in the middle of an inning. It just didn't work out."
For Stroman, receiving the kind of run support the Blue Jays gave him is a pitcher's dream. The only downside is having to wait longer than usual in between innings while the bats do their thing. But it's a drawback he'll happily concede.
"It's hard, but you're never going to turn down seven runs. However long it takes them to keep mashing, I'll sit there as long as they're putting up runs," he said. "[Playing for the Blue Jays], it's like playing a video game with a cheat team."