Estrada six outs shy from Blue Jays history
TORONTO -- Marco Estrada flirted with brilliance in the Blue Jays' 5-4 win over the Orioles on Friday night and came within six outs of becoming the second pitcher in franchise history to toss a no-hitter.
Estrada carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning until pinch-hitter Jimmy Paredes hit a leadoff flare to shallow left field. The ball was perfectly placed between outfielder Ezequiel Carrera and shortstop Jose Reyes as the no-no bid came to its demise.
The 31-year-old Estrada instead settled for allowing one hit over seven-plus innings. It was the third time in his career that he allowed one hit in a start that he didn't leave because of an injury and his first since Aug. 25, 2013, against the Reds.
"I was hoping he hit it hard enough to carry, but I did hear the bat and I think it broke," Estrada said. "That kind of indicated that it wasn't going to go very far. Just dropped in, perfect spot, and they had a few other hits just like that after I came out. It's just the way baseball is sometimes."
Estrada struck out six while picking up his third quality start in the last four outings. He retired 15 consecutive batters during a stretch that began in the third inning and lasted until the pinch-hit single by Paredes in the eighth.
The only downside to Estrada's outing were the four walks he issued during the first three innings. That led to a heavy workload during the early stages of the game and by the time Estrada went out to start the eighth inning, he had already thrown 113 pitches.
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons joked afterwards that "you'll never know" if Estrada would have been allowed to finish the game had he not given up a hit, but once Paredes singled to left it was an easy decision. Toronto went to the bullpen after Estrada had thrown a career-high 118 pitches, but afterwards he claimed there was still plenty left in the tank.
"I was fine, I wanted to just keep going," said Estrada, who improved to 5-3 with a 3.92 ERA. "If I had to throw 200 pitches today I would have. Unfortunately, I gave up that hit and I looked up and saw my pitch count, that I was at 118, and I knew that was probably it for me. I wanted to keep going, I wanted to finish the game."
Right-hander Dave Stieb remains the only pitcher in Blue Jays history to have tossed a no-hitter. He came close a couple of times before, but Stieb finally got the elusive career moment on Sept. 2, 1990, against the Indians. In more recent years, Dustin McGowan (2007) and Brandon Morrow (2010) carried no-hitters into the ninth inning.
Instead of joining Stieb, Estrada settled for his third consecutive win. He hasn't lost since May 22 and the Blue Jays' rotation as a whole hasn't allowed more than three runs in each of the last five games.
"He got on some kind of roll," said Gibbons, who watched the game from his office after getting ejected in the first inning. "The first couple of innings were a battle with the strike zone, but then he got on a nice little roll and he had everything working for him.
"He started spotting his fastball, great changeup and he started dropping that hook in there pretty consistently and he even threw some good cutters today. It was an impressive outing, you tip your hat to the guy, but he has pitched very well for us this year."