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Estrada, bullpen struggle in opener vs. Yankees

September 14, 2018

NEW YORK -- The reality is, whatever Marco Estrada does over the season's final month figures to affect his future in Toronto little. With several Top 30 Prospects candidates for 40-man roster protection on the way and the club in a rebuilding mode, the Blue Jays appear to be an

NEW YORK -- The reality is, whatever Marco Estrada does over the season's final month figures to affect his future in Toronto little. With several Top 30 Prospects candidates for 40-man roster protection on the way and the club in a rebuilding mode, the Blue Jays appear to be an unlikely fit for the 35-year-old when he becomes a free agent this offseason.
That doesn't make the reality of his September any easier to stomach. If this does end up being the final month in a Blue Jays uniform for Estrada, he'll be remembered more for the roles he played on two playoff teams than he will be for outings like Friday, when Estrada bore the brunt of an 11-0 loss to the Yankees at Yankee Stadium.
"It was a really bad game," Estrada said.
Fisher Cats cruise to Eastern League title
Pitching through a neck injury that's hampered him for weeks, Estrada matched a career high by surrendering eight earned runs over 2 2/3 innings, statistically the worst outing of his 11-year career. The Blue Jays did not muster much, in contrast, against winning pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, who scattered four hits across six shutout innings.
The defeat marked the fourth straight for the Blue Jays and 82nd overall, guaranteeing them a second straight losing season after consecutive playoff appearances from 2015-16. Estrada was perhaps their most consistent starter over that stretch, going 22-17 with a 3.30 ERA and averaging 29 starts per season. But he regressed, along with the Blue Jays' record, last season, and is now 7-12 with a 5.75 ERA across 26 starts this year. Estrada has pitched to a 7.89 ERA since the All-Star break while battling glute, blister and neck issues.
"It's been about as bad as it can get," Estrada said. "I'm struggling out there and it's not fun. I need to figure it out, get things going in the right direction. If not, take care of everything this offseason and get ready for next year."

Any further down the road, Estrada says, he hasn't yet looked. His short-term focus remains his command, which Estrada characterized as "all over the place" on Friday. Four of the six hits Estrada allowed came when he was ahead in the count, including the two that set up New York's five-run first. He also walked three and hit a batter.
"All I'm worried about is trying to be out there and help the team win, which I haven't done," Estrada said. "It's disappointing, because I want to help these guys win. I love the guys we have. I love Toronto. It's just frustrating."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Rough first inning: Estrada's troubles Friday began immediately. He allowed the first three Yankees to reach and score as New York jumped out to five runs in the first, when Aaron Hicks, Didi Gregorius and Luke Voit all drove in runs. Three more runs stained his line by the time reliever Christopher Guerrieri finished the third, the last two courtesy of a two-run Giancarlo Stanton single. In all, Estrada allowed 10 baserunners, six hits, walked three and hit a batter.

"We couldn't quite get that momentum back, and we got our butts kicked after that," catcher Luke Maile said.
SOUND SMART
Before Friday, the Blue Jays had won each of Estrada's seven career starts at Yankee Stadium -- including their only win in the Bronx this year. Estrada is now 4-1 with a 7.05 ERA in his career at the venue.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
A harmless foul ball nearly turned dangerous for Maile in the third, when the catcher made contact with the visitors' dugout railing while tracking a Gary Sanchez popup. The ball landed beyond Maile's grasp, and he lost his balance reaching for it, nearly flipping onto the Blue Jays' bench. Luckily, manager John Gibbons was nearby, as he held Maile steady and then propped him back up and onto the field. Third-base coach Luis Rivera also provided an assist to make sure Maile stayed upright.

"He's heavier than I thought he was," Gibbons said. "Catchers I'll help."
"He's stronger than I thought he was," quipped Maile, who went 2-for-2 with two walks.
HE SAID IT
"I don't know where he's going to end up, here or somewhere else. It's been a tough year for him. But one thing I'll never forget and nobody should forget, is he's been pretty good for this team over the years. Big in the playoffs. Helped us get there a couple of times. It's a tough level to play at. You're going to take your lumps. They all do. I don't care how good you are. Sometimes you just wear it." --- Gibbons, on Estrada
UP NEXT
The Blue Jays will once again look to play spoiler when their final series of the season against New York continues Saturday at 4:05 p.m. ET. Rookie right-hander Sean Reid-Foley (1-3, 6.86) will take the ball at Yankee Stadium for the second time in five career starts; he was hit hard in his first outing in the Bronx, his second-career start, last month. Carsten Sabathia (7-6, 3.54 ERA) starts for New York.

Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.