Stroman looks noticeablely better vs. D-backs

Stroman looks noticeablely better vs. D-backs

PHOENIX -- Marcus Stroman has received a lot of criticism this season, but he has a reason to be encouraged after another strong outing on Wednesday afternoon.

Stroman allowed one run and matched his season high with eight innings during the Blue Jays' 10-4 victory over the D-backs. He didn't allow an extra-base hit and recorded most of his outs on the ground en route to the quality start.

The 25-year-old has now tossed at least six innings while allowing two runs or fewer in three of his last four starts. That's a big step in the right direction compared to where things were a month ago.

"I think it's just part of the process," Stroman said. "It's kind of where I've been trying to get back to. I felt strong today, I felt strong in my previous starts. It's just a matter of competing and commanding my stuff out there."

Like most pitchers, Stroman is at his best when he keeps the ball down in the zone. He had trouble with that during his last outing against the A's, and the results weren't pretty. Stroman was roughed up for seven runs over 4 2/3 innings, which once again caused his critics to speak up.

It was a different story in Arizona. There were a few minor issues in a one-run first inning, but he managed to settle down after that, and location was the main reason why. Stroman started to consistently get the ball down in the zone and -- just as important -- away from the middle of the plate.

The end result saw Stroman scatter eight hits and strike out six without walking a batter. His ERA went from 5.15 to 4.90, and the difference in his outing was noticeable to all of those around, especially his teammates.

"Obviously I haven't got to watch his day-to-day on video or anything, but it just looked like to me, his last start, everything was middle," Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson said. "When you're throwing pitches down the middle, this is the big leagues, guys are going to hit it.

"Today it looked like he was able to get strike one early, and then he was able to use his movement to get some swings and misses later on in the count. He did a good job all day."

The turnaround began during an outing opposite lefty Chris Sale and the White Sox on June 26. Prior to that outing, Stroman made a series of minor adjustments to his delivery. He no longer raises his hand up high and above his shoulder, instead choosing to keep it low and into his body during a full wind-up.

Stroman also made a few other minor changes. Three quality starts in four outings doesn't mean Stroman is all the way back quite yet, but it could be an indication that he's moving in the right direction.

"I feel great, I feel great," Stroman said. "I would never lie to you. I feel great, and it's just a matter of locking in, commanding and competing out there every five [days]."

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.