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Marcus Stroman Deserves To Start, But John Gibbons Must Play His Cards Right

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Marcus Stroman is the best choice to start Tuesday's wild card game against the Baltimore Orioles, but only if manager John Gibbons plays his cards right. With stakes at an all time high, proper managerial decisions become crucial. If the Blue Jays want the edge on the scoreboard, they should start by out-managing Buck Showalter.

Marcus Stroman: A Tale of Two Pitchers

2016 vs. Stroman BA OBP HR
1st PA 0.275 0.321 1
2nd PA 0.225 0.289 5
3rd PA 0.284 0.321 14
4th PA 0.345 0.406 1

2016 vs. Stroman ERA FIP HR/IP
Innings 1-4 3.45 2.93 0.04
Innings 5-9 5.9 5.02 0.21

Stroman dominates opposing lineups his first time through the order. He rarely gives up a home run, and boasts a 2.93 FIP in the first four innings. Due to this success, he often pitches deep into ball games, as he sat among the American League leaders in innings per start.

There's a good chance that Marcus Stroman pitches quite well at the start of tomorrow's game. That's expected, as he's been doing it all season. If this does happen, it's up to John Gibbons to pull him before it's too late.

Francisco Liriano: Also A Tale Of Two Pitchers

2016 vs. Liriano BA OBP HR
1st PA 0.21 0.298 6
2nd PA 0.243 0.335 8
3rd PA 0.325 0.435 11

Opposing hitters also perform poorly against Liriano during their first plate appearance. Since the Orioles greatly struggle against left-handed pitching, it makes plenty of sense to use Liriano in this game, especially when you consider how dominant he pitched against them last week. Splitting tomorrow's start between Stroman and Liriano is ideal, as both pitchers are very effective the first time through the lineup.

Game Plan: Take Advantage Of The Orioles Lineup

Adam Jones R
Hyun Soo Kim L
Manny Machado R
Mark Trumbo R
Matt Wieters S
Chris Davis L
Jonathan Schoop R
Michael Bourn L
J.J. Hardy R

The nice part about going from Stroman to Liriano is that the majority of Toronto's late game relievers throw right-handed. The Orioles will likely start their starting lineup against righties, which provides Liriano with a ton of strong match-ups when he enters the game. If the Orioles decide to pinch hit, the Biagini- Grilli- Osuna trio will suddenly get to face several right-handed pinch hitters, which would also provide a favourable matchup.

With the exception of J.J. Hardy, the six-to-two hitters in this lineup all struggle against left-handed pitching. If Liriano enters the game for Chris Davis' first at bat, he will be given five favourable match-ups for the first six hitters he faces. The Orioles can counter, but this hurts them later in the game.

This strategy allows Stroman to focus on effectiveness, rather than efficiency. His pitch count will not matter much, and he can afford to ramp up his velocity at times or pitch for the strikeout.

The Blue Jays Will Change Pitchers In The Fifth, One Way Or Another

If John Gibbons does not make a pitching change to begin the fifth, he will be going from "Inning 1 to 4 Stroman" to "Inning 5 to 9 Stroman". In a regular season game, trusting the bullpen with the last five innings is nightmare fuel, but this is not an ordinary game. Francisco Liriano is well rested and pitching effectively of late, and he represents a better pitching change than "5 to 9 Stroman".

In a must win game, John Gibbons must play match-ups the best he can. That means using relievers when the situation calls for it, rather than saving them for other opportunities. Let Liriano and Cecil face an abundance of lefties, and let Grilli face the tough righties. Finally, don't be afraid to ask Roberto Osuna for more than three outs.