Marcus Stroman has made only 23 starts in his young career but Wednesday’s home start against the second-place Yankees was the most important. The Blue Jays entered the night nursing a 2.5-game lead for first place in the division and had split the first two games of the three-game set, the last one of the regular season in which the two rivals would square off. A win for the Yankees would shave that lead to 1.5 games; a win for the Blue Jays would bolster it to 3.5 with 10 games remaining.
Stroman dazzled, scattering five hits and a walk while striking out five over seven shutout innings. The Yankees mustered only one extra-base hit, a fifth-inning two-out double by Dustin Ackley, but it was quickly squelched by an inning-ending ground out.
In his last start, only his third of the year, Stroman pitched seven innings of one-run ball against the Red Sox. The 24-year-old missed most of the season rehabbing from a torn ACL suffered in spring training. Stroman wasn’t supposed to pitch this year, but beat expectations by making his season debut on September 12 against the same Yankees.
Stroman was a highly-regarded pitching prospect as he ascended through the Blue Jays’ minor league system. Heading into the 2014 season, he was rated the #27 overall prospect by Baseball Prospectus, as well as #55 by both MLB.com and Baseball America. The schedule currently works out such that Stroman would make two more regular season starts: next week in Baltimore against the Orioles, and in the season finale in Tampa against the Rays. If the Jays clinch the division prior to that, however, they may opt to give Stroman some extra rest.
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Machado Makes Friends, Enemies with HR
Orioles third baseman Manny Machado happened into some controversy on Wednesday night. He clubbed a go-ahead two-run home run in the seventh inning to chase Max Scherzer from the game. Demoralizing, but not something that would typically engender violence.
In his next at-bat, in the ninth inning, closer Jonathan Papelbon threw a high and tight fastball to Machado, as Mark Zuckerman of CSN Mid-Atlantic described. Papelbon didn’t miss with his next pitch, plunking Machado and earning an immediate ejection from home plate umpire Mark Ripperger. The benches cleared but things calmed down quickly.
Papelbon’s actions didn’t sit well with Machado, for obvious reasons. After the game, Machado called the veteran right-hander’s antics “coward stuff” and added, “I expect more from a guy like that,” as Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun reported.
Papelbon’s teammate and NL MVP candidate Bryce Harper also wasn’t a fan of what Papelbon did. Per MASN’s Chris Johnson, Harper called Papelbon’s decision to hit Machado “tired” and said he wouldn’t be surprised if the Orioles retaliated by throwing at him in Thursday’s game.
Machado has had a breakout season for the Orioles, batting .289/.360/.493 with 30 home runs, 77 RBI, 94 runs scored, and 17 stolen bases. According to FanGraphs, using the Wins Above Replacement statistic, only two position players -- Josh Donaldson (8.2) and Mike Trout (8.1) -- have been more valuable than Machado, at 6.5 WAR.
O’Day Steps In for Britton Again
Orioles set-up man Darren O’Day handled closing duties for a second consecutive game, pitching a scoreless ninth to close out Wednesday’s 4-3 win against the Nationals. Britton is dealing with a mild left lat strain, as Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun reported.
Britton has been terrific in the closer’s role for the Orioles this season, carrying a 2.04 ERA with a 76/14 K/BB ratio in 61 2/3 innings while converting the save in 34 of 38 opportunities. One of those four blown saves, however, came on Sunday against the Rays. Britton allowed a leadoff home run to Brandon Guyer to tie the game at 6-6 and finished out the inning allowing a triple and two walks ahead of serving up a walk-off infield single to Kevin Kiermaier.
Manager Buck Showalter considers Britton day-to-day, but O’Day will be used in the ninth inning while Britton is out. After Wednesday’s outing, O’Day has a 1.47 ERA with a 77/13 K/BB ratio in 61 1/3 innings. Fantasy owners looking to eke out a few final points before the end of the season will want to snag him while he’s available.
National League Quick Hits: Mets reliever Carlos Torres remained unavailable Wednesday due to lingering discomfort in his left calf … Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon was ejected from Wednesday’s loss to the Orioles after throwing at Manny Machado … Marlins shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria (hamstring) could return on Thursday … Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman (wrist) expects to return to the lineup on Friday … Phillies starter David Buchanan allowed two runs (one earned), taking a no-decision in Wednesday’s loss to the Marlins … Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright (heel) threw 25 pitches to live hitters on Wednesday … Pirates third baseman Aramis Ramirez was held out of Wednesday’s lineup due to a groin issue … Cubs outfielder Jorge Soler homered in Wednesday’s loss to the Brewers … Reds manager Bryan Price believes starter Raisel Iglesias is past his right shoulder fatigue … Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy (concussion) has been medically cleared to play … The Dodgers scratched Zack Greinke from Wednesday’s start against the Diamondbacks due to calf soreness … The Giants purchased the contract of INF/OF Kevin Frandsen from Triple-A Sacramento on Wednesday … Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt hit his 31st home run of the season on Wednesday against the Dodgers … Rockies starter Jorge De La Rosa (heel) won’t pitch again in 2015.
American League Quick Hits: Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin clubbed a three-run home run as the Blue Jays shut out the Yankees on Wednesday … Yankees starter Ivan Nova pitched 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball but lost to the Blue Jays on Wednesday … Orioles closer Zach Britton is dealing with a mild left lat strain … Rays manager Kevin Cash expects pitcher Jake McGee (knee) to return on Friday … Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts had three hits and a stolen base in a loss to the Rays on Wednesday … Royals outfielder Jarrod Dyson pinch-ran and stole his 26th base of the season in Wednesday’s loss to the Mariners … The Twins could activate starter Ricky Nolasco (ankle) from the disabled list this weekend … Indians outfielder Michael Brantley was not in Wednesday’s startling lineup due to a right shoulder injury … Frankie Montas lost his first major league start on Wednesday, allowing six runs in three innings as the White Sox lost to the Tigers … Tigers starter Justin Verlander struck out eight and allowed three runs in seven innings to beat the White Sox on Wednesday … Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton hopes to play a few innings in the field this weekend against the Astros … The Astros recalled first baseman Jonathan Singleton from Triple-A Fresno on Wednesday … Kole Calhoun hit a solo home run in Wednesday’s win against the Astros … Mariners starter Felix Hernandez (elbow) still start on Saturday against the Angels … Steven Vogt (groin) started at first base for the Athletics on Wednesday against the Rangers.