ANAHEIM, Calif. — Two young right-handers only a year apart but at radically different stages of their careers will face each other when the Toronto Blue Jays and the Los Angeles Angels finish their four-game series on Sunday at Angel Stadium.
The Blue Jays' Marcus Stroman, 25, has become a key member of the rotation in his first full season. The Angels' Alex Meyer, 26, is trying to establish a foothold after shoulder injuries nearly short-circuited his career.
Their respective teams also face extremely different fates. While the Angels are threatening to lose 90 games for the first time since 1999, the Blue Jays seek their second consecutive playoff spot. The American League East's defending champions and the Baltimore Orioles hold the two wild-card spots while trailing the first-place Boston Red Sox by three games.
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Stroman has played a valuable role. The native of Medford, N.Y., leads the Blue Jays with 155 strikeouts and 184 innings pitched, both career highs. Stroman's 47 walks are the fewest among Toronto's starters.
Yet the right-hander lost his previous three starts entering Sunday's game. In his last four starts, Stroman has allowed 13 earned runs and 25 hits in 23 innings, with opponents batting .272 against him.
In his last appearance Tuesday night, Stroman walked four batters in a game for the first time since June 26. Stroman gave up four runs on six hits, including a three-run home run to Alexei Ramirez, while striking out four in a 6-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.
“My stuff feels great,” Stroman told MLB.com afterward. “But we're at the point in September where we need to be getting wins, so it's frustrating.”
Yet Stroman has faced far worse. Last year, he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during spring training, but aggressive rehabilitation enabled the right-hander to return to the mound in mid-September and win all four of his regular-season starts, then add a victory over the Kansas City Royals in the American League Championship Series.
This year, Stroman lost four of six decisions during a nine-game stretch from May 17 to June 26. He allowed 38 earned runs and 67 hits in 45 1/3 innings while opponents batted .353. But from July 1 through Aug. 21, the right-hander compiled a 3.02 ERA.
“I definitely dealt with a rough stretch,” Stroman told the Toronto Star. “But that just showed me how strong I am to get through that on my own, and be able to change my mechanics mid-season and have success. I feel like September is my best month so I feel like I'm really gong to turn it on.”
Meyer, acquired from the Minnesota Twins at the trading deadline, has thrown just 40 innings covering 12 games at four different levels, from the Arizona Rookie League to the American League. In 10 major-league games over the past two seasons, the former first-round draft choice has yet to register a victory.
In his last start Tuesday night, Meyer permitted four runs and five hits while throwing 76 pitches in just five innings of an 8-0 loss to the Seattle Mariners.
“I've just got to do a better job of mixing in off-speed pitches earlier,” Meyer told MLB.com. “I tried to do too much fastball, especially when I was behind. Obvious they were jumping all over that and I wasn't able to throw it by anybody tonight.”