TORONTO – Marcus Stroman's first career major league start began as the story of the day but once the Blue Jays were done waxing the Kansas City Royals, 12-2, in another record-setting fashion, he was happy to offer the proverbial tip of the cap to his offence.
"The lineup is like playing a video game with a cheat team," he said. "Everyone's like 100-level."
By the time the first inning was over the Blue Jays led 7-0 on the strength of five hits, three walks and two hit batsman off Royals' right-hander Aaron Brooks, who'll have far fewer fond memories of his first big league start than his mound opponent.
Toronto set a franchise record; never before had the first eight hitters of a game reaching base safely.
The cushion gave Stroman an opportunity to relax and he went to work with a dazzling curveball, striking out six Royals over six innings. The likes of Alcides Escobar, Eric Hosmer and Billy Butler succumbed as the pitch darted down and toward the left-hander's batter's box.
"It was sharp today," said Stroman. "Me and (Dioner Navarro) got on a pretty good roll and whatever he was calling I was throwing and it just kept trickling in. I felt like we were pounding the zone pretty well."
"You could even see the reaction of the hitters after they were swinging at it," said Navarro. "Hopefully he builds up from this start and keeps going strong and help us out throughout the whole season."
Stroman's final line: Six innings, one earned run, five hits, zero walks and six strikeouts. Manager John Gibbons offered a quick quip when asked if the 23-year-old had earned another start.
"I think it'd be crazy not to," said Gibbons. "I told you I'm dumb, not stupid."
Stroman started in place of Drew Hutchison, whose next start was pushed back to Tuesday for the series opener in Detroit. While nothing is ailing Hutchison, he has thrown 65 innings in 11 starts already this season. Pro-rate that over an expected 33 or 34 starts and Hutchison would be at, or close to, the 200-inning mark.
Coming off a year-long rehabilitation of Tommy John elbow surgery and with limited minor league innings under his belt last year, the Blue Jays will take hand-picked opportunities to give Hutchison extended breathers.
While the plan runs contrary to Hutchison's ultra-competitive nature, the 23-year-old is okay with the idea.
"It was already kind of mentioned to me a little bit," said Hutchison. "I knew at some point this was probably going to happen. Of course I want to take the ball every five days, it's something you take pride in doing but this is something I think will enable me to pitch all year and be beneficial."
Hutchison threw a bullpen session on Sunday morning.
"To keep it like it would be on my normal, five-day routine," said Hutchison. "Just to try to keep it the same so I'll be crisp leading up to (Tuesday's start)".
RED HOT MAY
The Blue Jays wrapped up a 21-9 May to improve their overall record to 33-24. The strong month comes on the heels of an 0-1 March and a 12-14 April.
While pleased, manager John Gibbons delved into the personal history file to throw a bit of cold water on the excitement.
"I think in '08 in May we won 20 games, we had the best record in baseball and I got fired three weeks later," said Gibbons. "I always enjoy a good month but it means absolutely nothing in June."
Gibbons is right. Toronto went 20-10 in May, 2008 and had a record of 31-27 as a result. He was axed on June 20 with the club on a five-game losing streak and with a 4-12 record to that point in the month.
As another point of reference: Toronto dropped a 4-3, 17-inning game in San Diego last May 31, which dropped the Blue Jays' record to 23-32.