Stroman looks sharp in first game back since being hit by ball as Jays lose 5-4

TORONTO — There was no doubt in Marcus Stroman’s mind that he would make his scheduled start. It took hours of work and the help of the Toronto Blue Jays training staff, but he made it.

Stroman struck out six over six innings, but gave up a grand slam to Nick Castellanos in a costly third inning, as Toronto lost to the Detroit Tigers 5-4 on Friday night. Stroman’s start had been in doubt after he took a line drive off his throwing elbow in the Blue Jays’ 7-2 win in Baltimore on Sept. 2.

“I don’t have doubt ever, to be honest with you,” said Stroman, who made a point of naming several members of Toronto’s training staff after the game to make sure they got credit for his speedy recovery. “My goal was to get back out there. I never want to miss starts so I did everything in my power to get back out there and we got it done.

“Doubt doesn’t cross my mind. Ever.”

Jose Bautista crushed a solo home run and Richard Urena hit the first homer of his career but Toronto (64-77) still lost its third straight. Danny Barnes, Tom Koehler and Ryan Tepera relieved Stroman (11-7). Barnes allowed one run on an Ian Kinsler homer in the seventh.

Stroman, who put a large black hoodie on over a compression sleeve before speaking with reporters, said it took hours of work with Toronto’s training staff to recover from the line drive to his elbow.

“Just a lot, man, just a lot,” said Stroman, who also thanked manager John Gibbons and bench coach DeMarlo Hale for allowing him to pitch as scheduled. “It’s hard to rattle off. There was a lot of swelling and a lot of tightness in there but (the training staff) did everything in their power to help me and get out there so I could perform.”

Starting pitcher Buck Farmer (4-2) allowed two runs — one earned — over five innings of work, striking out three for Detroit (60-80). Drew VerHagen, Daniel Stumpf, Alex Wilson and Shane Greene came in from the bullpen for the Tigers, with Wilson allowing a pair of home runs.

Greene earned the save, only allowing a walk to pinch hitter Michael Saunders.

Steve Pearce was replaced in Toronto’s left field by Teoscar Hernandez to start the second inning. Pearce had lower back stiffness after striking out to lead off the Blue Jays’ first inning.

After two hits and a walk loaded the bases in the third inning, Castellanos hit a grand slam to give Detroit a 4-0 lead. Toronto centre-fielder Kevin Pillar seemed to have the ball tracked down but then suddenly turned to watch the ball go over the outfield wall.

Gibbons, who also returned to the Blue Jays after missing five games to attend to personal business, was impressed with Stroman’s outing.

“His stuff was really, really good, he got off to a great start, that one inning just bit him,” said Gibbons. “I think he got the first two outs, a couple hits and a walk, and of course the grand slam. But then he finished off very strong. It’s one of the mysteries of the game sometimes.”

Hernandez got Toronto on the board in the fifth with a double that drove in Urena. Kendrys Morales helped the Blue Jays chip away at Detroit’s lead in the sixth with an RBI single that brought home Bautista from second. Bautista started the rally when he reached base on a passed ball and Justin Smoak followed that up with a single.

But Detroit snuffed out the threat with its first triple play since 2001. Kevin Pillar hit a grounder up the third-base line, where Tigers infielder Jeimer Candelario caught the ball and tagged up before firing to second, where Kinsler touched his base before his throw beat Pillar to first.

“(VerHagen) actually didn’t really follow direction because I told him to get a double play and he didn’t, he got a triple play,” said Tigers manager Brad Ausmus with a laugh.

Kinsler added to the Tigers lead, putting a solo shot over the left-field wall to make it 5-2 in the top of the seventh.

Urena brought the 31,961 in attendance at Rogers Centre to their feet in the eighth inning with a solo home run to deep left field that cut Detroit’s lead to 5-3. Bautista followed that with his own home run into the second deck two at-bats later.

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