TORONTO — Marcus Stroman, in typical fashion, packed plenty of drama into a relatively short 2018 debut Sunday in the Blue Jays’ 7-4 victory over the Yankees at Rogers Centre. And if not for a misplaced slider that Brandon Drury turned into a two-run homer, Stroman would have had almost no regrets.
Stroman had eight strikeouts in five innings — fanning Aaron Judge twice and Giancarlo Stanton once — but was done in by a high pitch count, which reached 85.
The pitch Stroman wanted back was that 0-and-2 slider that Drury crushed in the third inning to give the Yankees a 4-1 lead. “That pitch was one of the worst pitches I’ve thrown in my life,” Stroman said.
The former Patchogue-Medford star admitted getting a little too excited in two-strike counts, something that he expects to have a better handle on now that his first start of the season is in the books. Considering that Stroman was delayed in spring training by shoulder inflammation and pitched only 71⁄3 innings against major-league competition last month, the way he kept the powerful Yankees in check was surprising.
“That lineup is pretty vicious,” Stroman said. “One through nine, you have to be on point from the first pitch to the last pitch.”
As far as tangling with Judge and Stanton, Stroman didn’t back down, but he did pick his spots. In the first inning, he walked both before striking out Didi Gregorius and Neil Walker on nasty sliders to escape the jam. In the third, Stroman froze Judge for the strikeout but ran into trouble by walking Stanton and giving up three straight hits, including the big mistake to Drury.
The fifth, however, was his crowning moment. Stroman needed 68 pitches to get through the first three innings but threw only seven in the fourth to stay strong for the fifth, when he again locked up Judge — this time looking at a fastball — and threw another fastball past a swinging Stanton for the whiff.
“It’s tough,” Stroman said. “Those guys obviously have unbelievable power. They’re not just power hitters but great hitters overall. I always pitch to my strengths no matter who’s in the box. And I always feel like I can get anybody in the world out.”
Stroman displayed that confidence Sunday, with his signature flair. He had his usual shoulder wobble going on after strikeouts and didn’t look any worse for wear from the spring training shoulder issues. As a bonus, Justin Smoak’s grand slam in the eighth got him off the hook for the loss.
“I felt really strong,” Stroman said. “I don’t feel behind and I feel like my stuff is where I need it to be.”