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Estrada shows signs of fatigue after stellar run

Right-hander walks four in first inning after two extended no-hit bids

TORONTO -- Blue Jays right-hander Marco Estrada emptied the tank in his previous two starts, both late-inning no-hit bids, and he appeared to be pitching on fumes during a disappointing outing against the Red Sox on Tuesday night.

Estrada was chased in the third inning of a 4-3 loss to Boston. He allowed four runs -- two earned -- on three hits and four walks. When he wasn't missing the zone, the Red Sox were teeing off with a lot of hard-hit balls, including a pair of homers by Jackie Bradley Jr. and David Ortiz.

The outing occurred six days after Estrada became the first Major League pitcher since Dave Stieb in 1988 to carry a no-hitter into the eighth inning of back-to-back starts. Blue Jays manager John Gibbons wasn't sure if the high pitch counts from each of those outings played a role against Boston, but he also wasn't going to rule it out.

Video: [email protected]: Napoli draws a bases-loaded walk in the 1st

"It could have, I've got no idea," Gibbons said. "He felt fine, but that was one of the reasons we wanted to get him out of there as early as we could because maybe that was the case. He didn't bring it to our attention [as an issue], but it very well could have been."

Estrada set a career high on June 19 when he tossed 118 pitches over seven-plus innings against the Orioles. He took a no-hitter into the eighth inning, when Jimmy Paredes hit a bloop single to left field with nobody out.

The next start was even more impressive as he entered the eighth inning against Tampa Bay with a perfect game until Logan Forsythe broke it up with an infield single. Estrada remained in the game until there were two outs in the ninth and set another career high with 129 pitches.

Video: [email protected]: De Aza takes a free pass to force in a run

Estrada did receive an extra day of rest between outings, but the heavy workload appeared to come at a high cost. The velocity remained relatively unchanged, with Estrada sitting in his typical 89-91 mph range with his fastball, but the command was off and he had a lot of difficulty keeping the ball down in the zone.

Athletes rarely -- if ever -- admit they are tired and Estrada certainly wasn't going down that road following the loss to Boston. The 31-year-old said his previous pitch counts played no role and instead put the focus on his normally effective changeup that wasn't working the way he wanted it to.

"That's one pitch that obviously I need, and when I don't have it, it's tough," said Estrada, who is 5-4 with a 3.58 ERA. "Normally, I can go to something else, like my curveball, but I didn't really throw those for strikes.

"I threw some decent cutters and that was about it. It was just one of those days. You try to keep the ball down and hopefully you can give the team innings, but obviously that didn't happen today."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for Read his blog, North of the Border, follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.
Read More: Toronto Blue Jays, Johnny Estrada