TORONTO -- No one in the Indians' dugout would argue with Marcus Stroman's postgame assessment that he showcased "great stuff" for most of Game 3 of the American League Championship Series, but the Blue Jays right-hander was ultimately saddled with a 4-2 loss on Monday at Rogers Centre. Toronto trails the best-of-seven ALCS 3-0.
The third time through the batting order proved to be Stroman's undoing, as Jason Kipnis answered a game-tying Toronto rally with a go-ahead home run to lead off the sixth. Jose Ramirez later greeted reliever Joe Biagini with a run-scoring single, representing the fourth run charged to Stroman.
Appearing to be amped up as he worked for the first time since the Blue Jays' AL Wild Card Game win over the Orioles on Oct. 4, Stroman's five-pitch walk to leadoff hitter Carlos Santana in the opening frame proved costly when Mike Napoli jumped on a 1-1 two-seam fastball that caught too much of the plate.
Jose Bautista nearly corralled Napoli's two-out drive on the warning track, as it smacked the webbing of his glove but fell out, producing Cleveland's first run on what was scored an RBI double.
"I felt good; just the command was a little bit off," Stroman said. "I was up. I wasn't necessarily in certain areas of the plate where I normally am. I made mistakes in certain counts where I don't normally make mistakes on certain pitches, and I got beat."
Michael Saunders' second-inning homer off Dan Otero evened the score, but Napoli hurt Stroman again in the fourth, launching a similarly located two-seamer for a projected 411-foot homer, according to Statcast™, to center field.
The hits were the first of Napoli's career off Stroman, against whom he had been 0-for-9 with three strikeouts. Following Napoli's homer, Stroman retired the next six Indians in order, which tempted manager John Gibbons to stick with the 25-year-old into the sixth inning.
"He kept us in the game, threw the ball well," catcher Russell Martin said. "A couple of nice swings from their side to get some runs on the board there. But overall I thought he did great. He kept us right in that game."
The third time through the order has been dangerous for Stroman, however: This season, batters owned a .847 OPS with 14 home runs in that situation, compared to a .666 OPS and one homer the first time through and a .630 OPS with five homers in their second plate appearance.
Kipnis made Toronto pay for leaving Stroman in, barreling up a four-seam fastball for a Statcast-projected 405-foot blast that proved to be the difference in the game.
"The swings were getting better for me," Kipnis said. "I was getting the foot down a little earlier and just being more on time with it. He dots up on the inside and away, and you just hope for one of those pitches to kind of come back over the plate."
It did, and though Stroman walked out of Rogers Centre pleased with his stuff and the way he mixed his 94 pitches, that counted for little considering the outcome.
"Not good enough," Stroman said. "I didn't do the job. That's pretty much it."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.