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Stroman struggles again as Blue Jays fall

'I just need to be better,' says righty after allowing 6 runs
MLB.com @gregorMLB

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays are almost a full month into the regular season, but they are still waiting for the old version of Marcus Stroman to show up.

Stroman struggled yet again on Friday night as he allowed six runs in a 6-4 loss to the Rangers at Rogers Centre. Joey Gallo homered and Nomar Mazara enjoyed a three-hit night for Texas while the Blue Jays lost for the sixth time in their last eight games. Stroman, meanwhile, was saddled with his fifth consecutive disappointing start.

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TORONTO -- The Blue Jays are almost a full month into the regular season, but they are still waiting for the old version of Marcus Stroman to show up.

Stroman struggled yet again on Friday night as he allowed six runs in a 6-4 loss to the Rangers at Rogers Centre. Joey Gallo homered and Nomar Mazara enjoyed a three-hit night for Texas while the Blue Jays lost for the sixth time in their last eight games. Stroman, meanwhile, was saddled with his fifth consecutive disappointing start.

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Toronto's right-hander dropped to 0-3 with an 8.88 ERA in what arguably has to be considered his worst month in five big league seasons. The only qualified American League pitcher with a higher ERA is Oakland's Kendall Graveman (8.89) and he was optioned to the Minor Leagues earlier this week. Stroman, who has tossed at least 200 innings in each of the last two years, has yet to complete the sixth inning this year.

"I just need to be better, overall," said Stroman, who allowed at least six earned runs in back-to-back starts for the second time in his career. "That's not me. That's on me, that loss. I can't spot them four runs in the first. That's very uncharacteristic of myself and I'm going to do everything in my power to get back to where I need to be."

Video: TEX@TOR: Stroman fans Guzman to end the 1st inning

Walks and an overall lack of command plagued Stroman during his first four starts of the season. Stroman walked 14 batters over his first 20 innings and while he solved some of those issues against the Rangers -- as evidenced by only one walk -- there were a few pitches that he left up in the zone and Texas made him pay for it.

Stroman fell behind almost from the moment he stepped onto the mound. He allowed the first two batters to reach base and -- two batters later -- served up a two-run single to Mazara. Gallo immediately followed with his eighth home run of the season and just like that, it was 4-0 Texas five batters into the game.

Rough first innings have become a bit of a trend for Stroman, who has allowed six first-inning runs this season compared to 10 all of last season. Whether a lack of innings this spring because of an injured right shoulder has played a role in Stroman's slow start this year is up for debate, but the bottom line is he needs to get back on track -- and soon.

"I just need to be better," Stroman said, repeating the same answer to multiple questions in his postgame scrum with reporters. "That's it. I'm going to get there. I know y'all might be worried but I'm going to get there. That's pretty much where I'm at."

Justin Smoak went 4-for-4 with an RBI while Kevin Pillar chipped in with a pair of hits, including a triple and a double, but Toronto dropped to 13-2 when scoring four or more runs -- and both of those losses have come in the last two days.

Video: TEX@TOR: Pillar laces a run-scoring triple to left

"It's going to happen throughout the year," Smoak said after the second four-hit game of his career. "I feel like we've been playing well and we've been in a lot of games. I know we got our butts kicked this year, I feel like one time in New York, but outside of that I feel like we've had a chance to win every game. Continue to do that throughout the year, hopefully we finish on top more than not."

Video: TEX@TOR: Smoak notches four hits, RBI in loss

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Close, but not close enough: Mazara led off the sixth inning with his third hit of the day and Gallo followed with a sinking liner to center. Pillar attempted to run in and make a spectacular grab but the ball bounced away from his glove for a single. That opened the door for what turned into Texas' go-ahead rally as a bunt moved both runners up a base and Ronald Guzman followed with a two-run single to left. The Rangers took a 6-4 lead they would not relinquish.

Video: TEX@TOR: Guzman drives in 2 runs with single to left

"Today, if you look at that game objectively, even go back to his previous one, he was good through five there in New York and the sixth inning they got him," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "Today, a couple of infield hits at the start of that first inning. He wasn't sticking it that first inning in the zone but from there on out, until we got to the sixth inning again, a couple of base hits and a dunk shot. That's part of it. He won't be happy with the results but I've seen progress the last two games."

Costly baserunning: The Blue Jays made several costly baserunning mistakes in this game. Smoak was thrown out at home in the first inning and in the third he was thrown out yet again, this time at third base. Smoak led off the third with a single and he attempted to go from first to third when a ground ball snuck under the glove of Drew Robinson at second. That proved to be an ill-advised decision as Delino DeShields threw out Smoak from center field. Pillar followed with an RBI triple that bounced over the head of Gallo in left, but he was stranded there after Russell Martin popped up and Kendrys Morales struck out.

Video: TEX@TOR: DeShields throws Smoak out at third base

"Getting thrown out at third, that was just a bad mistake on my part," Smoak said. "I felt like the ball got slowed down but I guess it didn't, and I'm not the fastest of foot anyways so I have to be better at that. I was just trying to get to third base. It wasn't a good play there."

SOUND SMART
The Blue Jays have lost three consecutive games for the first time this season. … Toronto has five triples this season, which already matches its entire total from last year when the Blue Jays had to the fewest of any team in the Major Leagues.

UP NEXT
Left-hander Jaime Garcia (2-1, 4.57 ERA) will take the mound when the Blue Jays continue their three-game series against the Rangers Saturday. Garcia has completed six innings just once since joining the Blue Jays. He has faced Texas once before in his career, and he allowed three runs over 5 1/3 innings. The Rangers will counter with veteran righty Bartolo Colon (0-0, 2.59). First pitch is slated for 4:07 p.m. ET.

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

Toronto Blue Jays, Marcus Stroman