It always seems to happen when you least it expect it. Five days after a mediocre four inning start following almost one month on the disabled list, Marco Estrada turned in one of his vintage outings. He took a no hitter into the 7th inning, and although he didn’t last much longer than that as his effectiveness waned, it was a stellar outing showing the veterans can shove it a little too on the mound after the rookie shut the Mariners down one night previously.
As is usually the case when Estrada is at his best, the box score doesn’t jump out: two walks against just four strikeouts, of course the one hit and one run over 7+ innings. But the contact was on total lockdown. Of the 18 balls put in play, six were routine ground balls and eight were complete can of corn balls in the air that had a cumulative Statcast hit probability of about 0.5 hits.
The one thing that was a little different was that he was working a lot of deep counts that ran up his pitch count. He took advantage of a wider strike zone, with two of the strikeouts coming on called third strike curveballs that strictly speaking didn’t actually grab the corner. as they tried to grab the backdoor.
Estrada was particularly dominant over the first six innings. As noted above, 14 of the 18 batted balls were very weak contact. Of the other four, only two came in the first six. One was a medium depth fly ball that is considered dangerous because down the line they’ll do, but it was routine. The other was a fly ball to the earning track in dead centre that the park just held.
The 7th inning went differently. Denard Span led off by stinging a fliner to the right-centre gap, just hanging up enough for Randall Grichuk to run it down and momentarily preserve the no-hitter. Alas, it wasn’t to be, as Mitch Haniger followed with a hard hit ball down the third base line for a clean double. It was probably for the better frankly, as Estrada got out of the inning with weak contact but near 90 pitches, and would probably have been looking at upwards of 120 had it continued intact and he went the distance. Which isn’t the best thing for a pitcher just back from injury.
Estrada came back out for the 8th, walked the first batter on four pitches at which point he got the hook in favour of Ryan Tepera. It made sense to send him back out to see if he could have a quick innings, but his effectiveness was diminished and with a fresh bullpen it was the right call. Tepera was a little up and down, and though he struck out two he first allowed a hit to send the runner to third, scoring on a ground ball. That was the only run charged to Estrada.
On the flip side, James Paxton ended up turning in a quality start, allowing three earned runs on eight hits. The Jays squandered an opportunity right off the bat, as Devon Travis doubled and Justin Smoak walked, but Teoscar Hernandez hit into an inning ending double play.
That was not repeated in third, when Kevin Pillar doubled followed by a Grichuk single, the latter advancing on a wild pitch. Travis cashed both with an RBI single (despite another inning ending GIDP by Smoak).
Paxton settled in afterwards, and the Jays didn’t do much the rest of the way. In some example of how frustrating these series must be for Seattle, right after Nelson Cruz ended the 4th by falling a few feet shy of a home run, Aledmys Diaz immediately turned around and led off the 5th by putting a home run just beyond the wall to make it 3-0.
Another nice trend that was continued was tacking on runs late, adding single marks in the 8th and 9th to extend the 3-1 lead to the final score. They probably could have added more than that given the number of hitters who reached, but a complaint about that would frankly be churlish. I’ll single out Brandon Drury for hitting a bunch of hard balls tonight, including a RBI double in the 9th.
Ken Giles came in for the 9th and once again leaned heavily on his slider, though was more effectively wild than anything. The game ended on a bang bang play at 1st turning a 5-4-3 double play, the celebration shortly delayed while a challenge was contemplated and ultimately waived.
Jays of the Day: Estrada (+0.342), Travis (+0.113).
Suckage: Teoscar (-0.114) hits the mark on the back of his 0-fer, but at least there were no (mis)adventures in the outfield.
I can’t believe I’m writing this given how things were going just 72 hours ago, but tomorrow the Jays will go for the sweep of their Seattle homestand, sending former Mariner and Pacific Northwesterner Sam Gaviglio to oppose Mike Leake at 4:05 EDT