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Jays waste great outing from Estrada, fall 4-3

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Jeff Griffith-USA TODAY Sports

Blue Jays 3 Rays 4

It was a game that both started and ended ominously. In between was pretty good, but unfortunately baseball games don't start in the 2nd and end after the 8th. With the loss, the Jays now fall a game behind Kansas City for top spot in the American League, and will have to both win tomorrow and have the Royals lose to guarantee home field throughout the playoffs (effectively, the ALCS).

Chris Archer came out very sharp in the first, retiring the side in order while striking out both Ben Revere and Jose Bautista. Meanwhile, Marco Estrada came out and gave up an absolute bomb to John Jaso leading off, a fastball at 89 MPH right down the middle. It was the very definition of a meatball. He worked around a one out infield single to escape further damage.

After that, Estrada went into complete lockdown mode as we've seen a few times this year. He hit Tim Beckham with one out in the 2nd inning, and then retired the next 14 batters in order through the end of the 6th inning. And there was nothing fluky about it, with no basically no quality contact made. Lots of weak ground balls, popouts, and strikeouts with his magnificent change-up fooling hitters over and over.

Meanwhile, the Jays offense woke up against Archer, though it took a little time to make any of it show up. They stranded two runners in the 2nd, before finally pushing a run across in the 3rd to tie the game 1-1. After leadoff singles from Cliff Pennington and Revere, they were poised for a big inning with the middle of the order up. All they got was a Jose Bautista RBI single, stranding another two runners.

Other than a Kevin Pillar single erased by being caught stealing, that was it against Archer who somewhat curiously came out after five innings in favour of Brandon Gomes. And he didn't have it today, hitting Bautista leading off with a 1-2 slider that didn't break. Edwin Encarnacion immediately made him pay, crushing a 3-1 hanging slider for his 39th home run of the season. One more tomorrow would make the Jays the 4th team in MLB history with three 40 HR hitters, and just the 2nd not juiced by Coors Field. Justin Smoak walked and Pillar singled with one out, but the Jays stranded another two runners after a pitching change.

Estrada unfortunately could not continue his magic, as the 7th started the same way as the 1st, with the hanging fastball being crushed for home run to make it 3-2. Estrada recovered to strike out out the next two batters, before he was replaced nearing 100 pitches. Despite the two bombs, it was an impressive line: 7 6.2 IP, 3 H, 2 runs, 0 walks (1 HBP) and 9 strikeouts.

John Gibbons then rolled through a succession of relievers. LaTroy Hawkins for one batter to finish the 7th. Brett Cecil for two outs and four pitches in the 8th, then one batter for Mark Lowe to end it. I am hoping this is just a case of Gibby getting his pitchers used to working on back-to-back days for the playoffs, otherwise it made no sense whatsoever.

Thus, we got Roberto Osuna for a second straight day in the 9th, and who could not nail down the save. He started by yielding a leadoff double, but settled in to get a popout and strikeout to keep tying run at 2nd. He had two strikes on Steven Sousa, but couldn't finish him off and ended up walking him and then James Loney to load the bases. Beckham plated the tying and winning runs with an RBI single.

Jays of the Day: Estrada (+0.134 WPA), Bautista (+0.162, 1/3, BB, HBP), Encarnacion (+0.226, 2/4, HR), Cecil (+0.099)

Suckage: Osuna (-0.827), Donaldson (-0.110, 0/5, K), Goins (0/4, K)

Tomorrow is game 162, the regular season finale at 3:10 ET. It is very nice to have to distinguish between regular season and season finale this year. The Rays will be sending Matt Moore out, the Jays currently haven't named anyone. Mark Buehrle perhaps to get him to 200 innings?