NEW YORK -- Marcus Stroman was enjoying his best start of the season, an outing that was supposed to alter his course in what has been a disappointing start to the year. Then it all came crashing down in the sixth inning.
New York jumped on Stroman in the seven-run frame, aided by some shoddy defense, and it resulted in the Blue Jays' 9-1 loss on Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium. Toronto picked up its second defeat in three games, and it is in danger of losing its first series of the year when the four-game set wraps up on Sunday afternoon.
Stroman allowed eight runs, six earned, on five hits and four walks while striking out five over 5 1/3 innings. His ERA now sits at 8.55 with an 0-2 record through four starts. Stroman's biggest issue has been his lack of command, with 14 walks over 20 innings, compared to 2.8 walks per nine innings last season, which at the time was a career high.
"There have been spurts where I kind of lose command," Stroman admitted after the game. "Where I have too much action on my sinker and I'm throwing it down, down, down, where I kind of can't pinpoint it. Just release point, working on a few things. I'm not worried about it. I can take the positives from this, and when I was dominant, I was rolling. So it's just a matter of doing that inning, after inning, after inning."
Despite the ugly pitching line, Stroman is correct in suggesting there was a time earlier in the day when he was cruising through the Yankees' lineup. His only real issue through the first five innings came on a poorly located sinker to Aaron Judge, who picked up his sixth home run of the year with a no-doubter to left.
Thanks in large part to Stroman, the Blue Jays entered the bottom of the sixth trailing by just one run, but that's when the wheels fell off. Stroman allowed the first four batters to reach base, on two hits and a pair of walks, before catcher Luke Maile dropped an easy catch at home for what should have been a forceout. Miguel Andujar followed a couple of batters later with a three-run double to left-center field, which chased Stroman from the game.
Toronto's offense didn't do Stroman any favors when the score was still manageable. The Blue Jays missed a slew of scoring opportunities off left-handed starter Jordan Montgomery, and they finished the day 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position and left six men on base. Montgomery allowed one run on four hits over six innings while striking out five.
The lack of run support has been an issue for Stroman over the first three weeks of the season. The Blue Jays have scored just six runs when he has been on the mound, but considering Toronto has opened the year ranked second in the American League in runs, the more pressing issue is Stroman's control -- or lack thereof.
"Just need to figure it out," said Stroman, who has allowed at least four runs in each of his four starts. "I have it in spurts, then I just completely lose it at times. It's frustrating, but I'll do everything in my power. I'll kill myself [working hard] before I continue to go out there like this. I know that with my work ethic, I'm going to get back to where I need to be, hopefully soon."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Missed opportunity: The Blue Jays had a perfect chance to open the scoring in the top of the third when they loaded the bases with one out. Teoscar Hernandez quickly fell behind 0-2, but he eventually worked the count full before striking out on a low curveball. Yangervis Solarte then stepped to the plate with a chance to drive in at least a couple of runs, but he hit a weak popup to short as the inning came to a close.
"We had some guys on base, we just couldn't cash in at all," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "Really, we've been getting guys on base all series."
Missed location: Stroman's first mistake came in the bottom of the third following a two-out walk to Brett Gardner. Stroman tossed three consecutive balls to Judge before he attempted a get-me-over sinker. Maile was looking for the fastball on the outside corner, but instead, Stroman threw it right down the middle and Judge did not miss it. The slugger hit the ball a projected 443 feet for his sixth home run of the season as New York picked up a lead it would not relinquish.
"I felt like I was rolling," Stroman said. "I made one bad pitch, it was a 3-0 pitch to Judge that kind of leaked back over the plate, he hammered. Other than that, through those first five, felt great and to just completely lose command, it's very frustrating. But like I said, I'm going to figure this out and be back to being dominant and going deep into games."
Toronto has lost all five starts that Stroman has made at Yankee Stadium since the start of 2016. He's 0-3 with a 5.82 ERA (11 earned runs across 17 innings) in the Bronx during that span.
The Blue Jays are 1-7 when scoring three runs or fewer this season and a perfect 12-0 when scoring at least four. The one run on Saturday ties the lowest output of the season for Toronto.
The Blue Jays will wrap up their four-game series against the Yankees when lefty Jaime Garcia takes the mound in Sunday's finale, with first pitch scheduled for 1:05 p.m. ET against the Yanks' Luis Severino. Garcia will get the opportunity to face his former team, as he made eight starts for New York last season and has a 2.20 ERA in three career appearances at Yankee Stadium. He has completed six innings just once for Toronto so far this season.