TORONTO - It was by far the least effective of Marcus Stroman's three postseason starts.
Toronto's offense was the best it has been in this postseason, hitting three home runs to back the former Patchogue-Medford High School star in an 11-8 victory over the Royals in ALCS Game 3 Monday night in front of an earsplitting sellout crowd of 49,751 at Rogers Centre.
"Pretty special," Stroman said of earning his first postseason win. "To go out there and see the bats swung like they were and see the defense play behind me . . . Just carry this momentum into the next couple of games."
Stroman, who allowed a combined five earned runs in his two ALDS starts against Texas, gave up four runs and 11 hits in 61/3 innings, but the offensive outburst allowed the Blue Jays to cut Kansas City's series lead to 2-1.
"We desperately needed that breakout," said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons, whose club led the majors in homers this season with 232. "The home run ball, which is what we're known for, was a huge part of the game."
Stroman greatly outpitched his counterpart, Johnny Cueto, who failed to make it out of the third inning and allowed eight runs, six hits and four walks.
The Royals outhit the Blue Jays 15-11, with Alcides Escobar picking up four hits and Ben Zobrist and Kendrys Morales adding three each. But the Blue Jays received a three-run homer by Troy Tulowitzki, a two-run shot by Josh Donaldson and a solo blast by Ryan Goins, each of whom finished with three RBIs.
Said Donaldson, "I felt like the entire night we had great at-bats. Not just good at-bats, great at-bats . . . Our lineup, we feel, is second to none.''
After Jose Bautista's RBI single in the eighth gave the Blue Jays an 11-4 lead, the Royals scored four in the ninth on Lorenzo Cain's sacrifice fly and Eric Hosmer's RBI single off Liam Hendriks and Morales' two-run homer off Roberto Osuna.
Three pitches into his outing, Stroman was behind. Escobar, who swung at the first pitch and got a hit in each of the first two games, tripled on the second pitch he saw from Stroman, getting a break when rightfielder Bautista charged the liner, made a lunging attempt and failed to come up with it. Zobrist's grounder to second made it 1-0.
"It's a battle," Stroman said of pitching in the playoffs. "Every pitch matters and especially facing a lineup like Kansas City, who is strong one through nine . . . it's tough."
The Jays began to hammer Cueto, on the receiving end of a sing-song "Cueto! Cueto!" chant from his first pitch, in the second.
Tulowitzki, who entered the game 4-for-29 and was ejected before the eighth inning by plate umpire John Hirschbeck for disputing a called third strike from the seventh, singled with one out. Russell Martin was hit with a pitch and Kevin Pillar's 6-4 forceout put runners at the corners for Goins, whose gaffe on a seventh-inning pop-up in Game 2 helped spark a five-run rally that erased a 3-0 deficit.
"I put the game in Kansas City behind me. That was probably the last thing in the back of my head,'' said Goins, who -- after Pillar stole second -- won a nine-pitch confrontation with a two-run single to left that made it 2-1 and had Rogers Centre shaking. Goins took second on the throw home and scored on Donaldson's single to left for a 3-1 lead.
The Royals made it 3-2 in the third but the Blue Jays jettisoned Cueto in the bottom of the inning. After Edwin Encarnacion singled and Chris Colabello walked, Tulowitzki drove an 0-and-1 fastball to center for his second homer of the postseason and a 6-2 lead, blowing the roof off Rogers Centre again.
Martin walked and scored on Pillar's double, ending Cueto's night and the start of Kris Medlin's. Two outs later, Donaldson hit a bomb into the second deck in left. His third homer of the postseason made it 9-2.
"You could not tell in the clubhouse [pregame] if we're down 0-2 or up 2-0," Stroman said. "I've never been a part of a team like that. What we have is extremely special. The confidence that everybody has with everybody is amazing."