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Pearce's HR fends off Halos in Stroman's return

June 24, 2018

ANAHEIM -- The Stro Show was back in full effect as Blue Jays right-hander Marcus Stroman made a triumphant return to the mound on Saturday night at Angel Stadium.Stroman tossed five scoreless innings just a few hours after he was activated from the 10-day disabled list. In his first appearance

ANAHEIM -- The Stro Show was back in full effect as Blue Jays right-hander Marcus Stroman made a triumphant return to the mound on Saturday night at Angel Stadium.
Stroman tossed five scoreless innings just a few hours after he was activated from the 10-day disabled list. In his first appearance since May 8, Stroman scattered six hits and walked one while Steve Pearce bailed out the bullpen with a three-run homer in the top of the ninth inning to give the Blue Jays a 4-1 victory over the Angels.
Teoscar Hernandez picked up a pair of hits, including his 13th home run of the season, but it was Stroman and Pearce who stole the show. Stroman showed a little bit of rust with a 21-pitch first inning and he had to pitch his way out a jam in the fourth, but for the most part it was smooth sailing for the 27-year-old product of Duke University.
What's the biggest difference between now and earlier in the season?
"The action on all of my pitches," Stroman said. "I have a little bit more velocity behind them. I don't have to worry about doing too much. I don't have to worry about trying to make the pitch move. Everything is just coming extremely natural and extremely easy now. Just how it used to. It's a really good feeling."

Stroman missed almost six weeks because of a right shoulder injury and what the Blue Jays also described as a "period of mental rest." He made three rehab appearances in the Minor Leagues, including two simulated games, before returning and while that wasn't a lot of time to get ready, Stroman didn't show any ill effects against Los Angeles.
As expected, Stroman worked with a limited pitch count and was removed from the game after 81 pitches. He allowed two hits in three of his five innings, but each time was able to work out of the jam. In the first, Stroman stranded two by striking out Luis Valbuena and getting Andrelton Simmons to ground out. In the third, he was bailed out by a strong throw from Kevin Pillar, and in the fourth Stroman stranded two more.
Stroman looked like a lot of his old self, which is something that could not be said earlier this season. Last year, Stroman posted a 3.09 ERA over 33 starts, but this season he had a 7.71 ERA in seven starts before going on the DL. Stroman admitted for the first time on Saturday night that at least part of the reason behind that sluggish start might have been that he rushed back too early this spring from a similar shoulder issue.
"I felt like I just needed a few more weeks probably in the beginning of the season," Stroman said. "I'm the type to always push forward. I did the same thing with my ACL. It's just the kind of character I am. But now that I look back, I probably just would have taken a little bit more time. My arm feels way better and I'm moving way easier."
Toronto right-hander Seunghwan Oh coughed up the lead in the bottom of the eighth inning when Valbuena homered to right field. That appeared to set the stage for another heartbreaking Blue Jays' loss, but Pearce saved the day in the next inning with a three-run shot off Angels reliever Justin Anderson. Pearce didn't even start, but he entered in the seventh as a pinch-hitter and later came up with the biggest hit of the game.
"It's a tough job to have," Pearce said of coming through in the big moment. "If you do something well, it gets magnified. A guy [Anderson] who throws that hard, the odds aren't in your favor. When you get it done, your teammates, coaches, they're so excited for you. When I crossed home plate, I couldn't wait to see the guys."

The Blue Jays won for just the second time in their last 12 road games. Toronto improved to 2-4 against the Angels this season and 6-13 against the American League West. The win also improved Toronto's record to 10-10 in June, while it is 10-8 over the last 18 games, which followed a 4-15 stretch through a large chunk of May.
The throw: The Angels were threatening to tie the game in the bottom of the third inning. David Fletcher and Michael Trout hit back-to-back singles before Stroman walked Justin Upton to load the bases with one out. Valbuena stepped to the plate and lifted a shallow fly ball to center field. Pillar had plenty of time to camp under the ball and ready himself for the throw, but despite the short distance, the Angels decided to send the runner from third. Pillar came up throwing and made a perfect toss home to get the sliding Fletcher at home for the final out of the frame.

"I knew he was out," Stroman said. "I had the best view. The throw couldn't have been any more perfect. Right on the money. Literally [catcher] Russell [Martin] could have closed his eyes and probably caught the ball and put the tag on. KP is always picking me up. He picked me up last year with a diving play in the gap. There is no other center fielder I want playing behind me more than Kevin Pillar."
Teoscar torches it: Hernandez picked up home run No. 13 on the season with a solo shot in the top of the third inning. According to Statcast™, the homer was projected to travel 424 feet and left his bat at 109.7 mph. Despite Toronto's sluggish offense this season, the Blue Jays entered play on Saturday ranked fourth in the Major Leagues with 257 extra-base hits. For Hernandez, 35 of his 62 hits this season have gone for extra bases and the home run was his second over the last five games.

The Blue Jays caught a big break in the bottom of the seventh when a replay review went their way. With a runner on first, Ian Kinsler hit a fly ball to left field. Jose Fernandez attempted to tag on the play and he was ruled safe after a close sliding play at second. Toronto asked for a review and the call was overturned. The replay officials determined that Devon Travis applied the tag and, while Fernandez beat the throw, he momentarily came off the bag and was ruled out.

The Blue Jays will close out their four-game series against the Angels when right-hander Sam Gaviglio (2-2, 3.75) takes the mound on Sunday afternoon with first pitch scheduled for 4:07 p.m ET at Angel Stadium. Gaviglio kept his spot in the rotation after Aaron Sanchez and Jaime Garcia were placed on the DL. Gaviglio was placed on a paternity leave following his last start and he has a 3.98 ERA as a starter this season. Los Angeles will counter with right-hander Felix Pena (0-0, 5.40).

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.