By Bob Elliott
The sold-out crowd of 48,056 at the Rogers Centre and the viewing audience at home got their fill of pitching Wednesday night.
The Blue Jays had a youngster starting who drew comparisons to Pedro Martinez, Matt Harvey and Felix Hernandez.
The hyperbole of a pennant race?
Maybe, but there was no stretching the truth on the runs Marcus Stroman allowed:
“He can spin the ball, he’s like Pedro” said veteran LaTroy Hawkins, “I liked the pitch he made Greg Bird in the seventh, a fastball up in the zone.”
Stroman allowed four singles, a double while walking one in his 95-pitch outing, lowering his ERA to 1.89.
Russell Martin put down all the right fingers for Stroman from his six-pitch arsenal. In addition Martin walked and scoring the game’s first run in sixth and hit a three-run homer in the seventh to settle matters.
“I don’t think I’ve ever caught a guy like Marcus before,” Martin said. “He can sink it, can cut it good and his change is excellent. There is room for improvement. He has the right mentality.”
Alex Rodriguez bounced to shortstop for the final out of the sixth inning.
Six scoreless in the books.
Stroman raced to the entrance of the Blue Jays third base dugout. There to meet him was David Price ... just as Stroman had met Price after he tossed seven scoreless on Monday night.
Stroman used his right hand to slap Price’s right hand. Price was wearing a batting glove which he removed as soon as Stroman finished with the industrial-strength slap. It was as if he had reached back into Brett Lawrie’s stockpile for a thumping.
“I caught Matt Harvey with the New York Mets (2012) and Marcus is in his class,” said Josh Thole. “Marcus has five electric pitches: fastball, cutter, curve, slider and change. If you count the two-seam and the four-seam fastballs as two ... that’s six.
“Guys asked me real early in the season if he’d be back this year after the torn ACL. I wasn’t sure. He came back and he’s in mid-season form after only two rehab outings.”
What would he do if he had a full spring under his belt?
“Allow negative runs?” said Troy Tulowitzki.
Justin Smoak said Stroman was competitive as former teammate Felix (The King) Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners.
“No one else is fresh. He’s fresh.” said Smoak. “Carlos Beltran got to first after a walk (in the seventh) and said he’s ‘throwing his cutter in, right on the black, or just off the black.’”
Did any other Yankees pass other Stroman compliments to the Jays first baseman?
“Did any others get on?” asked Smoak.
Dustin Ackely doubled so there was no time for Smoak to hear compliments as he proceeded directly to second. Brian McCann, Chase Headley, Didi Gregorious and Bird all singled.
“He was filthy, with an outstanding fastball,” said Ben Revere, “I faced him last year when I was with the Philadelphia Phillies. He came out of the bullpen throwing in the high 90s. I remember asking ‘who is this guy?’
“His late breaking slider is like Pedro’s. He is a special arm.”
This home-and-home September series was considered by many to be a dress rehearsal for the Jays for October.
How would the young Jays handle the stress?
How would veterans who had never been to a playoff game perform?
Was it unrealistic to give Stroman his first start in a pennant race?
Well, the Jays young uns like Ryan Goins and Roberto Osuna, who recorded the final three outs, performed.
Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion delivered in New York and at Rogers Centre. Marco Estrada and R.A. Dickey both pitched well enough to win this homestand.
Post-season veterans like Josh Donaldson, Mark Lowe and Dioner Navarro and Martin did their jobs.
They won three of four in New York.
They won two of three at the Rogers Centre.
The only down side of winning five of seven against their closest competitors was losing Tulowitzki.
But unlike when the Jays headed to New York, the Jays know what they have in Stroman, only the third pitcher to make his first three starts in September and win them all. George Merritt of the 1901 Pittsburgh Pirates and Warren McLaughlin of the 1902 Pirates are the others.
Now, that is special.
The lead is now 3 1/2, despite two bullpen losses Saturday and Sunday against the Boston Red Sox.
The magic number is now eight.