Don’t you just love comebacks? Pretty sure we all do. The Toronto Blue Jays’ drama of Friday night spilled into Saturday against the Detroit Tigers, but with a twist at the end.
Max Scherzer (37) against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Scherzer recently proved himself to the Tigers, who decided not to trade his desire of making more than the six-year, $144 million contract extension the team offered him this season (Jon Morosi, Fox Sports). Detroit decided last offseason to let go of Prince Fielder’s contract to Texas in the hopes of satisfying Scherzer’s contract needs. With Justin Verlander and other veterans not getting any younger, the time is now for the Tigers to win and they are pushing to capture the World Series before their great talent, including Scherzer, leave for more money elsewhere. His 13-4 record going into yesterday’s game is helping in that direction.
Marcus Stroman, a.k.a. The StroShow, has been putting on a show since becoming a starter in the Blue Jays pitching rotation. In his last ten starts, Stroman posted a 4-2 record, with a 2.61 ERA and 47 strikeouts. He only allowed 15 walks during those 53 innings. His breaking ball has been tough to hit. The proof being the .261 batting average for righty bats and only .209 for lefty bats, considering he is right-handed. Stroman’s proving himself with each start to not only remain in the Jays’ rotation, but also for possible big veteran money down the road.
Both pitchers showed why they are considered the top baseball chuckers for their respective teams. Neither man looked like they were phased by the opposing lineups. Scherzer did what he almost always does: dominate the strikezone. Out of 106 pitches, he threw 77 strikes. Stroman was no slouch, almost matching that total with 71 strikes on 109 pitches. The only difference was their types of outs. While Scherzer is a top pitcher now, striking out 11 Blue Jays with fastballs used 62% of the time, his arm may not last in the long run (Fangraphs.com). Stroman, who got 14 Tigers to ground out on breaking pitches, may want to use his curveball more than under 13% of the time (Fangraphs.com). A young man with an arm in tact and maintains it is a rare thing in the majors.
Neither pitcher gave up anything for five straight innings of this prize-fight matchup. In the top of the sixth inning, the first blow landed on Stroman. Victor Martinez doubled for the 23rd time this season to left field, scoring Ian Kinsler and Miguel Cabrera. In the bottom of the sixth inning, the Blue Jays counterpunched Scherzer with their own double from Melky Cabrera, his 30th of the season, to score Jose Reyes.
After that, the pitchers reclaimed their dominance; Scherzer threw haymakers while Stroman was ducking and weaving groundballs. Until the bottom of the ninth.
As the Tigers were nearing close to another win in Toronto, Joe Nathan was used to replace Scherzer to start what they thought would be the final frame of the game. However, Nathan looked very much like the night before. He was sweating more than everyone else seemed to be in the Rogers Centre. It showed in a lead-off single by Reyes, who stole second base with relative ease (a replay challenge was pointlessly made). After Melky flied out to move Reyes to third base, the tying run was 90 feet from home plate. Nathan seemed to refuse to let a hit beat him by intentionally walking Jose Bautista. He should have remembered that when Dioner Navarro singled to right field, scoring Reyes and pushing Bautista to second.
This act only seemed to mess with Nathan further as he uncorked a wild pitch, a vintage-nervous-closer brand, which moved Bautista to third and Navarro to second. After Colby Rasmus was walked, the Blue Jays looked to sip from that very delicious wine with a win. Unfortunately for the Jays, Nathan was allowed to escape with only blowing the save, being replaced by Joakim Soria. The new pitcher got out of the inning with two quick outs, but the damage had been done.
After a strong nine innings, Stroman was replaced by Aaron Loup to start the tenth inning. Loup only gave up a walk with a sacrifice bunt and two quick flyouts.
Aaron Loup (62) against the Detroit Tigers at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
It was Joba Chamerlain time in the bottom of the tenth. Apparently, that also meant dinner time for the Jays, as Danny Valencia and Nolan Reimold feasted on his pitches. Valencia singled on a grounder to Tigers’ shortstop Eugenio Suarez. Reimold doubled and scored Valencia to end the ball game, winning 3-2.
Stroman was pitted against one of the best pitchers in the game and came out of it with respect. Scherzer did leave the game with the opportunity for the win. It was Nathan who blew the save. It was Chamberlain who gave up the winning run and picked up the loss. Loup recorded the win and deserved applause for holding the fort in the extra inning. However, for being so young and so inexperienced, Stroman showed that he could complete nine innings of strong pitching. Imagine what this pitching stud can do with more experience under his belt.
Catch the Blue Jays continue their series against the Tigers at 1:00 p.m. today. David Price wears the Detroit uniform for the first time in Toronto against the Jays’ Mark Buehrle. Use the hashtag #ImaMarkBuehrleGuy on Twitter, if you wish to talk about Buehrle’s performance during the game.