After six innings without a allowing a hit against Puerto Rico, Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman continues to show why he is one of the best in must-win games.
Toronto Blue Jays fans already know what Marcus Stroman is capable of, when he is pitching in a must-win situation. Now every baseball fan knows what he can do on the biggest stage and once again it was phenomenal for team USA. In six innings, Stroman allowed one hit and one walk while striking out three batters throwing 73 pitches, 44 for strikes.
Stroman is not known as a big strikeout pitcher – the way he pitches is tailored towards ground ball outs. This was evident on Wednesday night, where 12 of his 18 outs came as a result of ground balls.
The 25-year old suffocated Puerto Rico’s offence, which featured strong hitters like Carlos Correa, Carlos Beltran, Francisco Lindor and Yadier Molina. What was also impressive about Stroman’s start, was how he bounced back from a rough outing against this same team in pool play.
Regardless of that, Stroman came in knowing what was at stake for his team and like he has done for the Blue Jays, he delivered. He spoke with reporters about his mindset going into the game.
"“I love pitching in these moments. I love the atmosphere. I feel like the bigger the game, the more I’m able to get up, the more effective I am.”"
Not only was Stroman’s passion on full display Wednesday night, but he got great defence behind him too. His teammates were definitely rallying behind him and got an extra boost from the energy he brings to the mound.
This probably won’t be the last time Stroman has a performance like this and at this point he is one of the best clutch performers in recent memory. It all started in game five of the 2015 ALDS against the Texas Rangers when Stroman pitched six innings allowing six hits, two earned runs, one walk and four strikeouts in the Blue Jays’ 6-3 victory.
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After losing the first two games of the ALCS in 2015 against the Kansas City Royals, Stroman started game three as the Blue Jays were looking to avoid a 3-0 deficit early. Although he allowed 11 hits over 6 1/3 innings, he helped his team to a 11-8 win allowing only four runs, but that game was not the most pivotal one of his career.
The game that cemented Stroman’s status was in 2016, in the Wild Card game against the Baltimore Orioles. In a do or die scenario, he limited the Orioles to two-runs over six innings.
What made this more impressive, was the number of people questioning the decision to have the 2012 first round draft pick start. Once again he proved he could handle the pressure.
What has allowed Stroman to be successful in these games is his ability to mix in various pitches including his curveball, cutter and sinker. It allows him to keep opposing hitters guessing. Where he gets in trouble is when pitches stay in the zone, instead of on the corners where he gets players chasing or swinging at low pitches, which usually result in ground ball outs.
After his performance in the WBC gold medal game, the Blue Jays should never hesitate to pitch Stroman in a big game. And hopefully, that game will clinch them the World Series.