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Estrada minimizes HR damage but takes loss

Offense unable to string together runs against spirited A's bullpen
MLB.com @gregorMLB

TORONTO -- Even on the nights when Marco Estrada has everything working and appears to be in complete control, there seems to be that one big inning he just can't avoid.

Estrada was enjoying one of his best starts this season when three consecutive two-out doubles in the top of the seventh inning changed everything. A tie ballgame quickly became a two-run deficit as the Blue Jays were saddled with a 3-1 loss to the Athletics on Friday night at Rogers Centre.

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TORONTO -- Even on the nights when Marco Estrada has everything working and appears to be in complete control, there seems to be that one big inning he just can't avoid.

Estrada was enjoying one of his best starts this season when three consecutive two-out doubles in the top of the seventh inning changed everything. A tie ballgame quickly became a two-run deficit as the Blue Jays were saddled with a 3-1 loss to the Athletics on Friday night at Rogers Centre.

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The 34-year-old has been working off this script for most of the season. The only difference on Friday was that instead of an ill-timed home run being decisive blow, it was a trio of consecutive extra-base hits that soured his night. The end result was his record dropping to 2-4 with a 5.15 ERA in nine starts this season.

"It was very frustrating," Estrada said after his fourth quality start. "I had three guys in an 0-2 count and I couldn't put anybody away. It almost ruins the outing. It did. We ended up losing because of it. I threw the ball well, I threw a lot of good pitches. It's unfortunate how it ended."

Estrada has not earned a victory since April 20, but his stuff has been a lot better than the numbers would indicate. He used his changeup 42 times against the A's, with nine swinging strikes, and he generated a lot of weak contact. Estrada's command has been much better of late -- he has walked just one batter in each of his last two starts -- but the positive finish that he has been searching for continues to be elusive.

In almost every one of Estrada's outings this year, the home run has been his biggest nemesis. The cliche in baseball about "a bloop and a blast" has applied on more than one occasion, with Estrada allowing 11 home runs this season, including one by Dustin Fowler during the third inning of Friday night's game. But Fowler's homer was a solo shot, and while Estrada appeared to shake that one off, his seventh inning will not be as easy to forget.

Toronto and Oakland were tied at 1 as Estrada entered the seventh, which marked just the sixth time this season a Blue Jays starter pitched into that inning. He picked up two quick outs and then Chad Pinder, Fowler and Josh Phegley each doubled. In the blink of an eye, the Blue Jays were staring at their second consecutive loss, as Estrada was charged with three runs on seven hits while striking out six.

"That was as good as I've seen him all year," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "That looked like the old guy. I thought it was a great outing for him."

Estrada clearly deserved a much better fate, but the Blue Jays' offense was not able to pick him up, even though an A's starter was forced to depart early because of an injury for the second consecutive day. On Thursday night, it was right-hander Andrew Triggs, who left in the third inning because of right forearm nerve irritation. On Friday night, it was former Blue Jay Brett Anderson, who left after the first inning because of a left shoulder issue.

Toronto might have been preparing for Anderson, but instead the club got a full dose of reliever Josh Lucas, who allowed just one run while striking out seven over 3 2/3 innings. Oakland also received solid scoreless appearances from Danny Coulombe, Chris Hatcher, Gregorio Petit and Blake Treinen to close out the game and push the A's record to one game above .500. The Blue Jays struck out 15 times, which was a season high for a nine-inning game.

Video: OAK@TOR: Urshela plates Maile with an RBI single

"It's definitely abnormal," Josh Donaldson said of Oakland's bullpen usage. "It's probably more difficult on them than it should be on us, but Bob [Melvin] has done a great job over there maneuvering his bullpen, and his guys have really answered the bell when they've had their opportunity come up in some unfortunate circumstances."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Bad send: Blue Jays third-base coach Luis Rivera has been noticeably aggressive of late, not hesitating to send his runners whenever the opportunity presents itself. Part of that reasoning is likely because Toronto's offense has gone through several dry spells this month, but either way, the strategy hasn't quite worked out. The Blue Jays have had multiple runners thrown out at home in recent weeks, and there was another case of that on Friday night. With two outs in the first inning, Yangervis Solarte singled to left. Curtis Granderson attempted to score from second as he got the wave from Rivera, but the veteran outfielder was easily thrown out at the plate, and the inning came to an end.

Video: OAK@TOR: Joyce throws out Granderson at the plate

Missed opportunity: Toronto's best opportunity to get back into the game occurred in the bottom of the eighth. Justin Smoak walked with two outs and Solarte followed with a single to put the potential tying run on base. Kevin Pillar, who leads the Majors with 18 doubles, then stepped to the plate but he quickly fell behind 0-2 and eventually struck out on a 98-mph sinker from Treinen.

Video: OAK@TOR: Treinen's dazzling sinker strikes out Pillar

SOUND SMART
The Blue Jays are below .500 for the first time since March 31. They are winless in six consecutive series (0-3-2) including the current four-game set, which at best for Toronto could end in a tie.

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Matt Chapman doubled in the ninth inning after entering the game late and was caught in a close pickoff play at the bag with Fowler at the plate. Reliever Ryan Tepera spun and made the throw to Yangervis Solarte, who applied the tag, and Chapman was initially called safe. The Blue Jays challenged, though, and the replay showed that the tag was in time. The call was overturned and Chapman was ruled out.

Video: OAK@TOR: Chapman picked off after call is overturned

UP NEXT
Right-hander Sam Gaviglio will make his first start for the Blue Jays when they continue their four-game series against the A's on Saturday afternoon at Rogers Centre with first pitch scheduled for 1:07 ET. Gaviglio earned the starting job after lefty Jaime Garcia was placed on the 10-day disabled list. Gaviglio has made two appearances out of the bullpen for the Blue Jays this season and he had a 1.86 ERA in five starts for Triple-A Buffalo. Sean Manaea will take the hill for the A's.

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

Toronto Blue Jays, Marco Estrada