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Marcus Stroman is back and that's bad news for the AL

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John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

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Marcus Stroman was supposed to be a significant part of the Blue Jays' playoff push in 2015, but a torn ACL kept that from happening. Instead, Stroman worked behind the scenes to get back as soon as he could, while Toronto bounced up and down the division during much of the first half. When they added Troy Tulowitzki, David Price and LaTroy Hawkins to the mix, though, things changed, and the Jays shot up to the top of the division, and now have a 3.5 game lead on the Yankees in the AL East, with 10 games to go. That last game of the lead is in large part due to Stroman, who is not only back, but once again looks like the Stroman that Toronto thought could lead their rotation.

Stroman's 2014 numbers don't jump off the page -- he had a 104 ERA+, which is good (especially for a 23-year-old rookie), but you don't expect someone who is a tick above-average to lead a playoff-caliber rotation. If you dig a little deeper, though, Stroman was much better than that as a starter: while his ERA for the season was 3.65, he allowed nine runs in 10 1/3 innings as a reliever, his first role in the bigs. Once Stroman moved to the rotation, he produced a 3.29 ERA over 120 frames with nearly four times as many strikeouts as walks. This performance is why fans and the Jays felt he was the guy this past spring.

While he looked a little rusty in his rehab starts and the strikeouts haven't entirely come back, Stroman lasted seven innings for the second start in a row on Wednesday, striking out five Yankees against one walk without allowing a run. He's thrown 96 and 95 pitches in his last two starts, so he's about as stretched out as he needs to be, and now, playoff baseball awaits him. With Stroman looking like Stroman and Price around, the Jays suddenly have an enviable playoff duo that could be the downfall of everyone else in the AL. Anything can happen in a short series, of course, but that anything can now include Stroman doing his thing.