TORONTO — The old Marcus Stroman — the swagger-filled, confidence-loaded, shimmy-shaking right-hander — returned on Friday night at Rogers Centre.
The Toronto starter earned his first win of the season with seven innings of five-hit ball as the Blue Jays held off the Detroit Tigers 3-2.
Stroman (1-5) was in form in his second start after a 39-game stint on the disabled list due to right shoulder fatigue. He allowed two earned runs, didn’t walk a batter and struck out four.
Perhaps more importantly, he had that oomph on the mound that was missing earlier this season.
“He looks like the old guy,” said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. “Everything is coming out better and he’s got a little strut going — like John Travolta.”
Justin Smoak hit a two-run homer as Toronto kicked off the four-game series by winning its ninth home game in 10 tries. Seunghwan Oh struck out the side in the eighth inning and Tyler Clippard worked the ninth for his fifth save.
Stroman, who threw five innings for a no-decision in his last start, was in control against the Tigers on a muggy summer evening.
“I feel great, I feel back to myself,” he said. “It’s a relief just being able to be myself out there, kind of do everything that I want to do out there without having to worry about it.”
He threw 65 of his 90 pitches for strikes.
“When he’s bowing his neck and sticking his chest out, that’s when he’s at his best,” Gibbons said. “That’s just who he is.”
Randal Grichuk had two of Toronto’s eight hits. The Blue Jays reached the season’s midway point with a 38-43 record.
Detroit (36-47), which extended its losing streak to a season-high 10 games, managed six hits in all. It’s the Tigers’ first 10-game skid in almost 15 years.
“The guys are really trying,” said Detroit manager Ron Gardenhire. “They’re bothered out there and they’re frustrated and they want to win. The guys are really pushing hard in the dugout but it’s just not happening right now.”
Detroit opened the scoring with a single run in the third inning. Jacoby Jones reached base after third baseman Yangervis Solarte double-clutched a grounder and was late with the throw.
The Tigers worked the hit-and-run to perfection as Jose Iglesias singled to put runners on the corners. Jones came home when Dixon Machado hit into a double play.
Former Blue Jays left-hander Francisco Liriano (3-4) rolled through the first three innings before getting into trouble in the fourth.
Solarte reached on an infield single but was thrown out at third by Nicholas Castellanos after Kendrys Morales lifted a single to right field. Smoak followed by taking a 1-0 pitch deep for his 10th homer of the year.
The Blue Jays didn’t let up, loading the bases on a Kevin Pillar single and walks to Russell Martin and Aledmys Diaz.
Devon Travis hit into a fielder’s choice but a Grichuk dribbler down the third-base line was enough to bring Martin home. Teoscar Hernandez struck out to end the inning.
Detroit halved the lead in the seventh when Jeimer Candelario took Stroman deep with a solo shot. It was his 12th homer of the season.
Liriano allowed seven hits and three earned runs over six innings. He issued four walks and had four strikeouts.
Clippard gave up an infield single to Leonys Martin in the ninth before retiring the next three Tigers in order.
Notes: Stroman picked up his 500th career strikeout when he fanned James McCann in the fifth inning. … Announced attendance was 24,068. … The game took two hours 33 minutes to play. … Right-hander Sam Gaviglio (2-2, 3.98 earned-run average) is scheduled to start for the Blue Jays on Saturday afternoon against left-hander Matthew Boyd (4-6, 4.15). … The Blue Jays selected infielder Darnell Sweeney from triple-A Buffalo before the game. He wore No. 38.
THE CANADIAN PRESS