TORONTO -- The Blue Jays have seen right-hander Marcus Stroman raise his performance to another level when the games count the most, which is why they can't wait to hand him the ball when the American League Championship Series continues at Rogers Centre tonight.
Having provided Toronto with a quality effort against the Orioles in the must-win AL Wild Card Game, Stroman is tasked with taking on the Indians as the Blue Jays return home intent on chipping away at a 2-0 series deficit.
• ALCS Game 3: Tonight at 8 ET on TBS/Sportsnet/RDS
Stroman will be pitching on 12 days' rest after limiting Baltimore to two runs over six innings in the Wild Card Game, which was won in the 11th inning on Edwin Encarnacion's walk-off three-run homer. A key performer down the stretch last season, Stroman feeds off the intensity of the postseason.
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"I think that's why you play the game," Stroman said. "I think that's why you get up at 6 a.m. to work out, that's why you do two-a-days, to be in this moment, to be in this time. It just excites me, walking out there in front of the home crowd, hearing them, it just kind of gives me a lot more enthusiasm and confidence kind of going into it."
Stroman made three starts for Toronto last October, getting the call in Game 2 of the AL Division Series vs. Texas and then again in the decisive Game 5. Toronto also turned to him in Game 3 of the ALCS when the Blue Jays were facing a 2-0 deficit to the Royals.
"He kind of thrives on those things," manager John Gibbons said. "And he's made a few of those starts in his young career, but he seems to thrive on them. He's one of those guys that wants to do it.
"It doesn't mean you're always going to get the results you want. He lives for those moments, which is kind of rare for a kid that's so inexperienced, to be honest with you. I've said this so many times -- perfect guy for a game like this because he always steps up, so hopefully, he can do it again."
Stroman was named as Toronto's Opening Day starter, and although he described his season as "up and down," he enjoyed success in facing the Indians twice. In a pair of no-decisions, he permitted just two runs on 12 hits over 14 innings (1.29 ERA).
He walked two and struck out 15 over the course of the efforts, which took place on July 1 in Toronto and Aug. 21 in Cleveland. From that July 1 outing through the end of the regular season, he posted a 3.42 ERA.
"I think it was just a combination of a bunch of work that myself and my coaches and teammates around me just put into it, changed my delivery, changed my mechanics slightly, focusing on certain things," Stroman said.
"I felt like I did a pretty good job of making that adjustment midyear, and ever since I made that adjustment, I felt extremely strong. I feel great. I feel strong. I've said it multiple times; I feel just as strong now as I did all year, and I can't wait to get out there."
The Blue Jays believe that, knowing that this is the type of stage where he tends to answer the call. Stroman believes the Blue Jays' offense is about to bust out in a big way after being held to one run through the first 18 innings of the ALCS.
"Our offense is amazing; it's been amazing all year," Stroman said. "I count on every single one of those guys to pick me up, and I have the confidence in them to go out there and score runs, regardless of what the previous two games were. I don't think that's a pre-showing of what's going to happen tomorrow."