TORONTO — Marcus Stroman wasn’t one of the better starters for the Blue Jays in 2016.
At least, not when compared to Aaron Sanchez, J.A. Happ and Marco Estrada, all of whom are likely to get varying degrees of AL Cy Young Award consideration.
Still, judging by what Toronto manager John Gibbons said Sunday afternoon, one got the sense that there is no one he’d rather have on the mound for Game 3 of the American League Championship Series against the Indians on Monday night than Stroman, 25, who starred for Patchogue-Medford High School.
“He seems to thrive on them . He’s one of those guys that wants to do it,” said Gibbons, whose club trails the best-of-seven series two games to none. “He lives for those moments. Which is kind of rare for a kid that’s so , to be honest with you. I’ve said this so many times, perfect guy for a game like this, because he always steps up, so hopefully he can do it again.”
Stroman, who will be opposed by Cleveland righthander Trevor Bauer — who was scratched from his Game 2 start after suffering a laceration on his right pinkie while fixing his drone and requiring 10 stitches to close the wound — went 9-10 with a 4.37 ERA this season. But he did post a 3.28 ERA in his final 11 starts and was chosen by Gibbons to start a true must-win earlier in this postseason, the wild-card game against Baltimore.
Stroman came through, allowing two runs and four hits in six innings in the Blue Jays’ 5-2, 11-inning victory and feeding off the raucous Rogers Centre crowd.
“I think that’s why you play the game,” said Stroman, who allowed two runs in six innings in another classic Blue Jays postseason victory, last year’s deciding ALDS Game 5 against the Rangers. “I think that’s why you get up at 6 a.m. to work out, that’s why you do two-a-days, to be in this moment, to be in this time. It just excites me, walking out there in front of the home crowd, hearing them, just kind of gives me a lot more enthusiasm and confidence kind of going into it.”
Stroman, who beat all expectations to return at the end of last season after suffering a torn ACL early in spring training, went 4-0 with a 1.67 ERA in four September starts to help the Blue Jays clinch the 2015 AL East crown but was inconsistent much of this season. He had a 5.33 ERA as late as June 26 before making some mechanical tweaks and starting to figure things out.
“Changed my delivery, changed my mechanics slightly,” Stroman said. “I felt like I did a pretty good job of making that adjustment midyear. And ever since I made that adjustment, I felt extremely strong. I feel great. I feel strong. I said it multiple times. I feel just as strong now as I did all year, and I can’t wait to get out there.”
The Blue Jays have lost to the Indians by 2-0 and 2-1 scores. Stroman hopes to get more help from his offense than Estrada and Happ did in the first two games, but he’s not obsessing over it.
“Not really worried about it, to be honest with you,” he said. “I think that’s baseball. Sometimes you go in spurts. Our offense is amazing. It’s been amazing all year. I count on every single one of those guys to pick me up. And I have the confidence in them to go out there and score runs, regardless of what the previous two games were. I don’t think that’s a pre-showing of what’s going to happen .’’
Marcus Stroman’s postseason numbers:
IP 25 1⁄3
Note: Toronto is 3-1 in Stroman’s starts.