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BLUE JAYS

Estrada shaky in Blue Jays' loss to Rays

By Steve Buffery, Toronto Sun

TORONTO — Before Tuesday’s game against Tampa Bay, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said right-handed pitcher Marco Estrada wasn’t going anywhere this season.

He might have amended that to: Not going anywhere except back to the drawing board.

A report prior to the game had Estrada being claimed on waivers by an unknown team, which means nothing if the Jays want to keep him. But Estrada pitched like the news troubled him, lasting only 4.1 innings, giving up six earned runs on 10 hits and four walks in a 6-4 Tampa victory. Two of the hits on Estrada were home runs by Lucas Duda and Wilson Ramos.

From early June through late July, Estrada struggled. But his last four starts heading into Tuesday night’s game were solid, posting a 2.06 ERA during that time. That’s what made his performance against Tampa so frustrating. Estrada is now 0-7 in his last eight starts against the Rays with a 7.75 ERA.

“I felt okay. I did make some good pitches and they found a way against me. It’s just one of those teams that has my number and I haven’t been able to figure them out,” said Estrada. “It’s unfortunate. I felt okay, I thought I did make some decent pitches and next thing I know, I’m down six runs.”

Gibbons thought his starter pitched okay and that the Rays just put on some good swings, but Estrada was disappointed not giving his team a chance to win.

“I know we’re creeping up a little bit and we’re kind of close to that second wild-card spot so losing a game like this hurts even more,” Estrada said.

A red-hot Josh Donaldson hit his 18th home run of the year, a three-run blast in the fifth with the Jays down 6-1, but that’s as close as they could get. Donaldson has homered nine times in his last 17 games. The three RBIs gives him 500 for his career.

The Jays took a 1-0 lead in the second inning courtesy of a Kevin Pillar bloop double to centre, that got behind the Tampa outfielders, and some excellent base running by Steve Pearce, who scored from first base on the play.

Duda smashed a 77 mph change-up offered by Estrada in the third over the right field wall to score himself and Daniel Robertson, giving Tampa a 2-1 lead. In the fourth, catcher Ramos slugged another 77 mph change up over the wall, this time to left. In the same inning, Corey Dickerson put the Rays ahead 4-1 when he hit a single up the middle to score Adeiny Hechavarria from second.

In the fifth, Ramos hit a high fly ball to centre with one out and runners at first and second but Pillar lost it in the twilight. That seemed to throw Estrada off. With the bases loaded, Estrada walked Hechavarria to score Logan Morrison from third, giving the Rays a 5-1 lead. He then walked Robertson to score Steven Souza Jr., prompting Gibbons to pull him for left-handed reliever Matt Dermody.

“It’s one of those things, I’m upset at myself for letting it get to me,” said Estrada. “I know everybody’s trying hard, I’m trying hard. (But) when some of those plays aren’t made it’s hard to let it go sometimes. Normally, I don’t really think about that stuff. But today it obviously affected me and I walked two guys in. That’s all I’m upset about, the way I handled it after.”

Donaldson’s three-run blast in the fifth came off Tampa starter Blake Snell, who gave up four runs to pick up his first win of the season.

Left-hander Tim Mayza made his MLB debut when he was brought in to pitch the ninth with the Jays trailing 6-4. Mayza gave up a pair of hits but one, a smash just over the head of Darwin Barney at short, might have been playable.

“It was pretty much everything I could dream of,” said Mayza. “I felt good, I felt pretty poised, composed, so overall I was pleased with the outing.”

sbuffery@postmedia.com