You somehow knew it was Marcus Stroman’s turn to pitch for the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday night.
When the doors to the inner sanctum of the clubhouse were finally opened to the prying eyes of the media several hours before first pitch against the Tampa Bay Rays, the impish Stroman almost immediately went over to the panel that controls the room’s entertainment system.
Baseball tradition dictates that the starting pitcher is in charge of the pregame music, and Stroman’s taste – and we use that word charitably – runs from hip-hop to more hip-hop.
With a flick of the wrist, Stroman elevated the volume from intolerable to indecent, thereby ensuring any attempt at tape recording an interview would be rendered futile, unless a bullhorn was involved.
Stroman is full of jumping beans at the best of times, but on Tuesday he was especially so, prancing from locker to locker and engaging his bemused teammates in idle chatter and physical jousting.
On the field, though, Stroman’s bravado was not enough to inspire his teammates, as the Tampa Bay Rays pulled away for a 6-2 win.
About the only consolation for the Blue Jays – sort of – is that the Baltimore Orioles defeated Boston 6-3, meaning that Toronto still trails the Red Sox by just two games for the lead in the American League East.
The problem with Baltimore winning, though, is the Orioles have now drawn even in the standing with the Blue Jays.
For the second straight game against the Rays, Toronto was without its catalyst, Josh Donaldson, in the starting lineup.
The third baseman, as it turns out, has been suffering from a sore right hip that he aggravated on Sunday against Boston.
Toronto manager John Gibbons said he doesn’t think it is anything too serious. But he also said that on Monday when he forecast that Donaldson would probably be back in the lineup Tuesday.
“We’ll take it day by day,” Gibbons said, suggesting Wednesday afternoon’s wrap-up game in the series against the Rays as the next target date for Donaldson’s return.
Toronto is hoping the break will do Donaldson some good. He has gone hitless (0-for-23) in his last seven consecutive starts, a career worst and the longest current streak in the league.
Tuesday’s game was also notable for the fact that, with an announced gathering of 38,338, the Blue Jays sailed over the three-million plateau in total attendance through 73 home games this season.
That is a level the organization has not reached since 1993, when the Jays attracted just over four million during its run to a second consecutive World Series title.
On the year, the Blue Jays have had 35 sellouts, are fourth over all in the MLB in attendance, and are first in the American League.
Mark Shapiro, in his first year as the Blue Jays president and chief executive officer after running the Indians in Cleveland, said the fan support is gratifying.
Shapiro said, with eight more home games left on the season, the projected overall attendance is expected to nudge somewhere around 3.3 million mark.
The additional revenues, if used correctly through proper long-term planning, should help the Blue Jays maintain a competitive edge going forward, Shapiro said.
“I’m not really looking day to day at where the numbers are as people cross the gates,” Shapiro said before the game when asked about the significance of three million. “I’ve probably crossed the threshold at how incredible the fan base and support is here earlier in the season, in contrast to what I’ve experienced.
“So, when you pull back and take a moment to reflect, the numbers are staggering, the support is overwhelming. And again, I would just reinforce that to me it fuels the desire and the need to continue to fulfill our end.”
Stroman gutted it out through six innings, allowing three runs off three hits – the big blow a three-run home run by Alexei Ramirez in the fifth that provided Tampa Bay with a 3-0 lead.
That was enough to hang the loss on Stroman, his third straight, to see his record dip to 9-8.
Russell Martin trimmed the lead to one when he lifted his 18th home run of the year in the sixth but Toronto reliever Joe Biagini gave one back in
the seventh when he surrendered a solo shot to Steven Souza Jr.
For Biagini, who did not allow a home run in his first 49 appearances, it was his third long ball surrendered in his last four outings.
A scrumptious moment presented itself to Toronto in the seventh when the heavy-hitting Edwin Encarnacion came to the plate with the bases loaded and two out and a great opportunity to inflict damage.
With the crowd longing for a hit, Encarnacion struck out on some high heat from Rays’ reliever Danny Farquhar.Report Typo/Error
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