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

AP Photo/Chris O'Meara

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.