Stroman vows to overcome struggles after loss to Red Sox

Marcus Stroman gave up six runs in 5 2/3 innings in the Blue Jays 6-4 loss to the Boston Red Sox on Saturday.

BOSTON – Marcus Stroman’s not quite sure why he’s struggling on the mound of late. He hopes video sessions with the Toronto Blue Jays coaching staff might reveal answers within the next five days.

But he’s convinced that his struggles are temporary and that he’ll find a solution that will allow him to pitch to his considerable potential.

“I know that this is just something that’s not going to last,” Stroman said after his Toronto Blue Jays lost 6-4 to the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park Saturday.

Stroman set a career high with five walks, and three of them came around to score. The right-hander has now allowed six or more runs in three of his last four starts. Along the way his ERA has jumped from 3.54 to 4.82.

“It was a battle for him,” manager John Gibbons said. “He’s not invincible. Like any pitcher that’s ever pitched this game some days you’re going to get hit around.”

So what happens when you’ve been hit around three times in four starts? Stroman knows he’s “in a little bit of a rut,” just not why. That means the first step will be finding explanations for the recent struggles.

“I’ve got to find out what’s been going on, work on it and get back to how I’ve been in the past,” Stroman said. “But I know my work ethic and I know that I’ll do everything in my power to get it back to where it needs to be … I’ll just get back to work tomorrow.”

Baseball’s most prolific offence got started early against Stroman, scoring one in the second. David Ortiz then hit a two-run single through the shift in the bottom of the third inning, scoring a Dustin Pedroia walk and a Xander Bogaerts double. In fact there were a few times that Toronto’s shifts were no match for Boston, as Dustin Pedroia and Bogaerts would both take third base uncontested when Blue Jays shifts left the position vacated.

Bogaerts, whose hitting streak ended at 26 Friday, is hitting .350 with a .911 OPS after a three-hit day. Blake Swihart, another offensive contributor with two walks and a single, exited the game with an ankle injury after running into the left field wall in foul territory.

“They’re a great lineup one through nine,” Stroman said. “They all swing it very well and they’re all very hot.”

With third baseman Josh Donaldson resting a jammed thumb, the Blue Jays’ offence couldn’t break through against knuckleballer Steven Wright (and though Donaldson was holding a bat in the top of the ninth inning, that was merely “a little bit of false hustle” according to Gibbons). Justin Smoak lined a base hit off of Pedroia’s glove to get the Blue Jays on the board in the fourth, but Toronto couldn’t take advantage of runners on the corners with no outs, and emerged with just one run.

They added two runs in bizarre fashion the next inning. Michael Saunders struck out but a dropped third strike eluded Ryan Hanigan, and Ryan Goins and Jose Bautista both came around to score. Saunders ended up at first base with the most productive strikeout the Blue Jays will have all season.

In theory four runs should be enough to win on a day your ace is pitching. Stroman figures to have plenty of days where that’s more than enough, but right now he’s struggling through a rough stretch where his ability hasn’t been translating to results.

“I’ve been through a lot of points in my life where I’ve struggled a lot mentally, emotionally, physically,” Stroman said. “I’m pretty sure at this point there’s nothing I can’t handle. I’ll be fine. I guarantee you.”

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