Usually a game with a 36-62 club visiting a 29-63 team isn’t what you’d call “high stakes”.
Friday’s contest between the Blue Jays and Tigers was an exception to that rule, because of the man on the mound for Toronto. In just his second July start due to a combination of a cramping issue and the All-Star break, Marcus Stroman was on display for scouts of multiple teams.
Adding yet another layer of intrigue to the proceedings was Stroman’s previous outing where he set a season high in average fastball velocity (93.5 mph), threw the fewest heaters he has in any of his 127 career starts (19.6%), and tied a season-best in strikeouts with seven. With a strong outing on Friday, the right-hander had the ability to prove that he was both injury-free and in fine form.
That’s precisely what he did, spinning seven scoreless innings and leaving the game with a 12-0 lead. The 28-year-old struck out five without walking a batter and allowed just six hits. Even though he found himself in a couple of jams, he locked down the Tigers in crucial situations, holding them to a measly 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position.
Of course, it’s worth pointing out that Stroman didn’t have the most difficult opposition to deal with. The Tigers came into the game with a miserable .234/.293/.385 line as a team and the only group of position players with a negative WAR. So, those numbers deserve a healthy grain of salt. Still, it’s pretty hard to argue with seven shutout frames.
Not only were Stroman’s results outstanding, he also showed off a similar plan of attack to the one that served him so well at Yankee Stadium in his previous start. Of his 101 pitches, 65 of them were sliders or cutters and a few of his strikeouts showed the excellent movement on his primary breaking balls.
His strikeout of Miguel Cabrera in the first inning on a slider just off the plate was simply nasty.
And he escaped that jam two batters later by embarrassing Christian Stewart with the downward action on the pitch.
There were two possible nitpicks you could engage in with Stroman’s performance. The first would be pointing out his fastball velocity (92.7 mph) was right around his season average as opposed to being elevated like it was in his last outing. The second would be to acknowledge that his average exit velocity of 93.3 was on the unseemly side. Neither seemed to affect a night where he conceded just one extra-base hit.
Stroman came into Friday’s action with an 127-start resume so it would stand to reason that one start wouldn’t make all the difference for opposing teams. However, with the right-hander only under control through 2020, a contender would really be getting him for two playoff runs. They want to be damn sure he’ll be good for them this year - especially considering his brief health concern prior to the break.
Even though Stroman didn’t throw up ‘K’ after ‘K’ on Friday, he probably erased some doubts for his next employer.
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