Right-hander struggles in first, but impresses over next six frames
By Jamie Ross
TORONTO -- Remove the first inning from Marcus Stroman's start on Friday at Rogers Centre and you have a performance that on most nights would be worthy of a victory. Stroman turned in seven strong innings -- at one point retiring 14 batters in a row -- but didn't factor into the decision as the Blue Jays dropped an extra-innings affair to the Rangers, 6-4, to go down two games in the best-of-five American League Division Series.
Toronto will need a win on Sunday (8 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1, Sportsnet) in Arlington if it hopes to keep its playoff drive alive.
"Early on I felt like I was getting beat, but I wasn't getting hit all over the park," Stroman said. "... Once I got past that first, I felt like I got into a groove."
After allowing three hits to the first three batters he faced, costing him two runs, Stroman settled in, found his stride and went on to allow only a pair of hits and one run over his next six innings before he was lifted in favour of Brett Cecil in the eighth with a 4-3 lead.
"I thought he was awesome. He didn't get too riled up when he didn't get any outs in the first inning, he kept his composure, and settled down and then he was just regular old Stroman," said Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin.
All told, Stroman allowed four runs (three earned) and five hits with two walks and five strikeouts over seven-plus innings. Cecil, who suffered a calf injury, allowed the inherited runner to score in the eighth on a Mike Napoli single.
The right-hander's best streak of success on the night began after he allowed a run in the second frame. That set off his 14-retired-batter run. He then allowed a walk and a single in the sixth before delivering a three up, three down seventh.
After giving up a single to start the eighth, he was still going strong, but with several lefties due up, manager John Gibbons said it was time to go to the bullpen.
"That's the heart of their order, that's why we went to [Cecil]," Gibbons said.
Stroman, making his first career postseason appearance, was an obvious choice to get the ball in the second game of the series for the Blue Jays. After tearing a ligament in his left knee in Spring Training, Stroman pulled off a miraculous comeback and returned to the Blue Jays' starting rotation in September, giving himself enough time to make four starts. Over that span, he went 4-0 and registered a 1.67 ERA.
Jamie Ross is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.