Marcus Stroman told the media that he couldn't wait to get out on the mound against Team Dominican Republic's loaded lineup. Judging by his performance, Stroman wasn't kidding.The Blue Jays' 5-foot-8 pitcher stood tall in his first-ever World Baseball Classic start for Team USA, scattering three hits and striking out
Marcus Stroman told the media that he couldn't wait to get out on the mound against Team Dominican Republic's loaded lineup. Judging by his performance, Stroman wasn't kidding.
The Blue Jays' 5-foot-8 pitcher stood tall in his first-ever World Baseball Classic start for Team USA, scattering three hits and striking out four over 4 2/3 scoreless innings against an All-Star-caliber Dominican team Saturday night in the nations' Pool C matchup at Marlins Park, which Team Dominican Republic rallied to win, 7-5.
"I don't know that I've ever seen anybody more determined than he was tonight," Team USA manager Jim Leyland said of Stroman. "I mean, he wanted it. He did an absolutely unbelievable job."
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Employing a lively mix consisting mostly of fastballs, sliders and changeups, Stroman did what he does best to keep the powerful Dominican bats at bay: Keep the ball on the ground. The right-hander led all Major League starters in 2016 with a 60.1 percent ground-ball rate, and also forced 49 percent of opposing batters to "top" batted balls, according to Statcast™, the second-highest rate in baseball last year.
:: 2017 World Baseball Classic ::
Simply put, Stroman is as good as any pitcher in the world at getting hitters to pound pitches into the dirt, and he showed it Saturday by collecting seven ground-ball outs without allowing a single fly ball in fair territory. When Stroman wasn't inducing weak contact, he was missing Dominican bats -- including a notable called strikeout of Blue Jays teammate Jose Bautista in the bottom of the fourth.
Stroman threw 64 pitches, one below the first-round maximum, before giving way to Tanner Roark with a 3-0 lead and two outs in the bottom of the fifth. Unfortunately for Team USA, the Dominicans' relentless lineup went to work after Stroman departed, scoring seven unanswered runs to earn the comeback victory.
"What we don't want to lose sight of how terrific Stroman was," Leyland said. "He was absolutely terrific. We just didn't quite close it out."
Stroman's pitch count means he is not eligible to pitch for four days, according to the tournament's pitch-count restrictions, but will be available to start again for Team USA if it should reach the second round at San Diego's Petco Park.
The World Baseball Classic runs through March 22. In the U.S., games air live exclusively in English on MLB Network and on an authenticated basis via MLBNetwork.com/watch, while ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN provide the exclusive Spanish-language coverage. MLB.TV Premium subscribers in the U.S. have access to watch every tournament game live on any of the streaming service's 400-plus supported devices. The tournament is being distributed internationally across all forms of television, internet, mobile and radio in territories excluding the U.S., Puerto Rico and Japan. Get tickets for games at Marlins Park, Tokyo Dome, Estadio Charros de Jalisco in Mexico, Petco Park, as well as the Championship Round at Dodger Stadium, while complete coverage -- including schedules, video, stats and gear -- is available at WorldBaseballClassic.com.
Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.