AP Photo/Chris O'Meara

Marcus Stroman uses grounders, not strikeouts, to tame Rays’ bats on Opening Day


Rays starter Chris Archer drew most of the attention during Sunday’s Opening Day contest, helping set a new franchise record for strikeouts, but it was Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman who had the last laugh.

Stroman pitched into the ninth inning, yielding three runs on six hits and a walk with five strikeouts. The right-hander allowed 21 total balls in play, 17 of which were of the ground ball variety, or 81 percent. To put that in perspective, Brett Anderson led qualified starters in ground ball rate last season at 66.3 percent. Obviously, one game is a tremendously small sample size.

The ground balls are nothing new for Stroman. In 157 2/3 career innings in the majors entering the 2016 season, he had induced grounders at a 55.6 percent clip along with a 20 percent strikeout rate. As Stroman lost most of last season due to a torn ACL, the soon-to-be 25-year-old is a popular breakout pick for this season.

During Sunday’s outing, Stroman had held the Rays to a lone run in the first eight innings. He went for the complete game, but allowed a leadoff home run to Corey Dickerson and a single to Desmond Jennings before being replaced by Roberto Osuna. Osuna allowed Jennings to score, with the run being charged to Stroman. He was eventually able to close things out for the 5-3 win.

Madison Bumgarner apparently hunts bears, too

Madison Bumgarner
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We welcomed “Mason Saunders” into our lives on Sunday, thanks to The Athletic’s Andrew Baggarly and Zach Buchanan. Mason Saunders is the alias of Diamondbacks starter Madison Bumgarner when he competes in rodeos, something he’s done as recently as December (when he was still a free agent).

Given that one of Bumgarner’s other extracurricular activities, riding dirt bikes, resulted in a serious injury, many have been wondering how the Diamondbacks would react to the news that the lefty they inked to a five-year contract two months ago is roping steers in his spare time. It seems like the Diamondbacks just accept that that’s who Bumgarner is.

On Tuesday, Baggarly and Buchanan answered some frequently asked questions about the whole Bumgarner-rodeo thing. They mentioned that former Giants manager Bruce Bochy, in a radio interview on KNBR, slipped in that Bumgarner also hunts bears in his off-time. Bochy said, “You think, ‘Madison, you’re looking at signing your biggest contract ever to set yourself up for life and you’re going to risk it on the rodeo?’ But he’s got confidence. I mean there’s some stories I do know that he probably wouldn’t want me to share, with him bear hunting, and the tight situations he’s gotten himself into.”

As Baggarly and Buchanan explained, when Bumgarner — I mean, Saunders — is roping steers, he’s not taking much of a risk. They wrote, “The header and heeler don’t chase the steer around the ring. Each trial is more or less a one-shot deal and it’s over in less than 10 seconds. If the header or heeler misses on the first attempt, then no time is recorded.” Bumgarner has also said he ropes with his non-pitching hand. Hunting bears is an entirely different level of risk, one would imagine. That being said, no one seemed to be surprised that Bumgarner moonlights as a serious rodeo competitor. That’s likely also the case that he, as Bochy puts it, goes “mano a mano” against bears.