Marcus Stroman gives Yankees rotation a rare jolt, dashes Boone’s expectations

Yankees' Marcus Stroman reacts after three homers in his first inning against the Astros at Yankee Stadium on May 9, 2024.

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In an uncharacteristic turn of events, a Yankees starting pitcher found himself in a predicament on Thursday, unable to deliver his usual performance and leaving his team facing an early deficit. Marcus Stroman candidly addressed the need for self-improvement, stressing the significance of avoiding a three-run first inning that puts his team at a disadvantage against the Astros and hinders their ability to sweep the series.

The Yankees’ starting rotation had been performing at an exceptionally high level and entered the game with a commendable 3.39 cumulative ERA, which ranked eighth-best in the league. They also stood out as one of only three teams, alongside the Orioles and Nationals, whose starters consistently pitched at least four innings in every outing, showcasing their reliability and endurance.

However, Marcus Stroman’s performance on Thursday deviated from the norm, as he encountered early difficulties, surrendering three runs in the first inning on a pair of substantial home runs to Yordan Alvarez and Jon Singleton. Despite his struggles, Marcus Stroman managed to limit the damage to four runs over his 5 ²/₃ innings of work in the Yankees’ 4-3 loss to the Astros.

This defeat concluded an otherwise successful homestand on a disappointing note, following a commendable 5-1 run against the Tigers and Astros. As the Yankees hold a solid 25-14 record through their first 39 games, the starting rotation has been a key factor in their success, consistently providing the team with opportunities to secure victories.

Marcus Stroman, a player for the New York Yankees, participated in the Yankees' game against the Houston Astros on May 9, 2024.
Sarah Stier

Marcus Stroman belies Yankees’ expectations

Yankees manager Aaron Boone has been particularly appreciative of the starting rotation’s ability to keep the Yankees competitive in nearly every game. 

He noted that there were few instances, such as Marcus Stroman’s outing, where the Yankees had ever found themselves out of contention by the middle innings, with the possible exception of a game against Baltimore where they faced a four or five-run deficit. While Boone emphasized that his starting pitchers have consistently given the team a chance to win, regardless of the number of innings they pitched, his comments seemed to underline the fact that Marcus Stroman belied those expectations.

“The opportunity to win a game,” Boone said about his starting rotation. “I don’t recall a game where we were just out of it in the middle innings — maybe the Baltimore game a little when we were down four or five runs. But by and large — whether it’s been four innings, five innings, six innings, seven innings, eight innings, whatever a starting pitcher has given us — we’ve been in the game 99 percent of the time.

“It starts on the bump and it starts with that guy that kicks off the game for you. They set you up to give you a chance to be successful, and that’s been a common theme at the start of the season.”

Boone further elaborated on the importance of the starting pitchers’ role in setting the tone for the team’s success. He stressed that their ability to provide a strong foundation at the beginning of each game has been a key factor in the Yankees’ ability to secure victories throughout the early part of the season.

However, Thursday’s game served as a reminder that even the most reliable rotations can have an off day. The Yankees’ loss, their first in a week, highlighted the direct impact that a starting pitcher’s performance can have on the team’s overall success.

Reflecting on his performance, Marcus Stroman acknowledged that the pitches resulting in the home runs were poorly located, lacking the necessary movement to be effective. He expressed a strong desire to improve in his upcoming appearances, recognizing the critical role he plays in his team’s success.

Yankees' Marcus Stroman is pitching against the Astros at Yankee Stadium on May 9, 2024.

Marcus Stroman admits fault

Marcus Stroman’s outing against the Astros on Thursday night got off to a rocky start, and the Yankees were never able to recover from the early deficit he allowed. The right-hander lasted 5.2 innings, but it was the three runs he surrendered in the first frame that proved too much for New York’s offense to overcome, despite their best efforts.

The Yankees pitcher began the game by retiring the first two batters he faced without issue. However, things quickly unraveled as Yordan Alvarez launched a towering solo home run that traveled an estimated 395 feet. Although it was just a one-run deficit at that point, Marcus Stroman’s struggles continued as he issued a six-pitch walk to Jeremy Pena. The free pass proved costly, as Jon Singleton followed with a massive two-run blast that clanked off the face of the third deck, traveling approximately 442 feet.

In Marcus Stroman’s assessment, the long balls resulted from a lack of execution on specific pitches. However, he revealed that he had made “a little mechanical adjustment” in an attempt to improve his location moving forward.

“Definitely a lot of adversity in there,” he said after the game. “I wasn’t good enough early on. Just kind of put our team in a little bit of a hole. Yeah, just gotta be better. Can’t let up three in the first, I don’t give my team a chance when I do that.”

Marcus Stroman acknowledged the need to tighten up his pitches, particularly in two-strike counts, but ultimately attributed his performance to execution issues. True to his process-oriented approach, he vowed to continue tinkering and striving for improvement in his next outing.

“Just kind of playing with a few things, but just didn’t execute on some of those pitches,” Marcus Stroman explained. “They capitalized on two pitches that didn’t end up doing what I wanted them to do. So, It’s baseball.”

Despite the early struggles, Marcus Stroman did provide some length for the Yankees, giving their offense an opportunity to mount a comeback. Unfortunately, they were unable to string together enough hits to overcome the rival Astros on this particular night. Stroman did note a slight improvement in his command, as he walked only two batters after issuing five free passes in each of his previous two starts.
While the outcome was disappointing, Marcus Stroman’s determination to refine his mechanics and execution could bode well for the Yankees as they continue their push for postseason contention.

A rare hiccup in Yankees rotation

Moving forward, the Yankees will undoubtedly rely on Marcus Stroman to bounce back from this uncharacteristic outing and contribute to the team’s ongoing success. With a talented and resilient roster, the Yankees are well-equipped to navigate the challenges that arise throughout a demanding season.

In the face of uncertainties surrounding the Yankees’ starting rotation, particularly with staff ace Gerrit Cole expected to miss a significant portion of the season, the group has risen to the challenge and delivered impressive performances. Despite the lingering doubts about the effectiveness of Nestor Cortes and Carlos Rodon following their lackluster seasons, and the absence of Luis Gil from the big leagues last year due to Tommy John surgery, these pitchers have exceeded expectations. Additionally, the unproven Clarke Schmidt and newcomer Marcus Stroman have seamlessly integrated into the rotation, contributing to the team’s success.

Moreover, the starting rotation has been instrumental in providing the Yankees with length in their outings. They rank fourth in innings pitched among starting rotations and have accumulated the third-highest number of strikeouts, with 219 in 213 innings. This ability to go deep into games has been crucial in keeping the team in contention.

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