Marcus Stroman is having himself quite the season, although you would not know it by his record.
The combustible Toronto right-hander and, dare we say, ace of the Blue Jays staff, entered Friday night’s game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Rogers Centre with a 3-7 record.
Dig a little deeper, however, and you discover that Stroman’s performance is better than what his record indicates.
He entered the game with a 2.84 earned-run average, seventh best in the American League. He has recorded eight of the team’s 18 quality starts and his 58.5 ground-ball percentage leads the league.
Stroman’s shoddy won-loss mark has more to do with Toronto’s shoddy offence than anything else. Through his first 13 starts he has received 2.96 runs of support per nine innings, the lowest rate of any qualified pitcher in the majors.
Like clockwork, the Blue Jays bats once again went into cold storage with Stroman on the mound Friday night. Adding to the insult, Stroman himself was not pitching with precision.
It was a bad combination and it resulted in the Diamondbacks waltzing off with a rather easy 8-2 victory in the first of a three-game weekend series.
The Diamondbacks did most of their damage in the fourth inning, in which they knocked Stroman around for five runs and a 5-0 lead.
Kevin Cron knocked a three-run home run during the barrage and David Peralta added a solo job in the sixth. Carson Kelly added to the insult with home run off reliever Elvis Luciano in the ninth.
Teoscar Hernandez accounted for Toronto’s first run with a home run in the fifth.
“I think they hit some good pitches, to be honest,” Stroman said of his fourth-inning tumble. “Cron put a really good swing on an inside sinker that was probably four inches off the plate. Walker hit a cutter down pretty good. So I just think they beat me in that inning.”
The Blue Jays finished with five hits, compared to 10 by the Diamondbacks. And for the fourth time in their past six games Toronto scored two or fewer runs.
It marked the first time since 2016 that the National League’s Diamondbacks have played the Blue Jays. Torey Lovullo, the Arizona manager, held his first major-league coaching job in Toronto from 2011-12 as the team’s first-base coach.
Vancouver’s Dave McKay, the Diamondbacks first-base coach, was the first Canadian-born player to appear with Toronto in its inaugural game on April 7, 1977.
The Diamondbacks are spinning their wheels in the NL West, heading into Toronto with a 31-32 record and already 12 games off the pace of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
That’s a far sight better than the Blue Jays, who began the series 16 1/2 games in arrears of the New York Yankees in the American League East. FanGraphs website is listing Toronto’s chances of making the playoffs at 0.0 per cent.
Still, the Blue Jays are riding a bit higher of late, after taking two of three from the Yankees. Should Toronto rebound to win the series against Arizona it would be just the second time this season the Blue Jays have won back-to-back sets, dating to April when they handled Minnesota and then Oakland.
It was the defence that was supporting Stroman early on in Friday’s game when Randal Grichuk made a fine diving grab in shallow right field to take away a hit from Ketel Marte.
Stroman was cruising along just fine until the fourth, when the Diamondbacks jumped all over him for five runs off four hits and a walk.
It started innocently enough when Marte stroked a one-out single off Stroman, just the second hit he had given up until that point.
Stroman then walked Eduardo Escobar and a single by Peralta put the Diamondbacks up 1-0.
A double by Christian Walker followed before Cron stepped into the batter’s box and the rookie put a charge into a 1-1 fastball.
The ball sailed over the wall in left and Cron had his first major-league home run, a three-run effort to make the score 5-0.
As he headed to the dugout after getting the third out, Stroman yanked at his jersey and untucked it from his pants, obviously miffed at what had transpired.
Toronto got one back for him in the fifth when Hernandez, playing in just his third game following his three-week exile in Triple A, went long against Arizona starter Merrill Kelly.
But Stroman could not produce the lockdown inning. In the sixth he surrendered his second home run of his outing to Peralta.
Two batters later Stroman was gone, having given up six runs and seven hits.
Kelly dominated the Blue Jays over seven innings, allowing the lone run off three hits to improve to 6-6.