Manager John Gibbons has been impressed with Marcus Stroman since the rookie was called up to join Toronto’s bullpen in early May.
Now shining as a starter – especially at home – Stroman takes the ball Thursday looking to help the Blue Jays win a third straight to close this four-game set with the visiting Boston Red Sox.
Stroman (5-2, 3.58 ERA) made his major league debut May 4 and was used five times as a reliever before joining the rotation May 31. He’s gone 4-2 with a 2.50 ERA in nine starts and was solid Saturday after a nine-day layoff, allowing four hits in seven scoreless innings of a 4-1 win over Texas.
The 23-year-old right-hander improved to 4-1 with a 1.82 ERA in six home outings.
"Since he’s been here, he’s been really good, especially for a young kid," Gibbons said. "He’s a lot more polished than I thought he was going to be."
Stroman has yet to face the Red Sox (47-54), who are last in the AL East and have lost two straight after winning eight of nine. David Ortiz hit a three-run homer in the first inning Wednesday before Boston let the lead slip away in a 6-4 defeat.
Ortiz is 5 for 14 with four homers and eight RBIs in the series and hit his 37th home run at Rogers Centre, the most of any visiting opponent. He’s looking to homer in four straight games for the first time since Aug. 9-12, 2001, while with Minnesota.
Stroman also must contend with rookie Brock Holt, who was held out of Boston’s lineup Wednesday after playing 59 straight since being called up. Manager John Farrell said Holt, hitting .321 with three homers and 23 RBIs, will start the series finale.
"You never like to take any player out that’s doing extremely well," Farrell told MLB’s official website. "You feel like he’s played every inning since sometime back in May. He’s deserving of a day off."
The Blue Jays (53-49) have won four of five after Jose Bautista had two hits for the second straight night, delivering an RBI double and a solo homer.
It marked the first homer in 16 games for the AL captain of the Home Run Derby and the first time he had multiple hits in back-to-back contests since June 4 and 5.
"He’s due to heat up in the home run department," Gibbons said.
Toronto has averaged 5.4 runs over its last five, and now Red Sox starter Rubby De La Rosa will look to hold its lineup in check.
De La Rosa (3-2, 2.64) allowed one run and five hits in 14 innings over his final two starts before being sent to the minors June 28. He was dominant again Saturday to win his second start since being recalled July 9, giving up a run and five hits through seven innings of Saturday’s 2-1 victory over Kansas City.
"He projects a great mound presence," Farrell said. "He has all the abilities to be an upper-end rotation pitcher. Through consistent performance, that should play out, but he’s in a pretty good place right now."
The right-hander, though, is 0-2 with a 4.42 ERA in three road starts compared to 3-0 with a 1.38 ERA in four starts at Fenway Park.
De La Rosa will be making his first start against the Blue Jays, who have won six of the last seven meetings.