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Blue Jays, Estrada can't conquer Astros

Right-hander can't escape 5th in potential final home start at Rogers Centre
September 24, 2018

TORONTO -- Justin Smoak began his walk to first base on what he thought was a bases-loaded walk to score the game-tying run in the fifth inning, but instead home-plate umpire Kerwin Danley rung him up. It was as close as the Blue Jays would come to tying the game

TORONTO -- Justin Smoak began his walk to first base on what he thought was a bases-loaded walk to score the game-tying run in the fifth inning, but instead home-plate umpire Kerwin Danley rung him up. It was as close as the Blue Jays would come to tying the game in a 5-3 loss to the Astros.
After the call, Smoak turned around in disgust to voice his displeasure with Danley. The low fastball appeared to just barely graze the lower part of the strike zone, according to Statcast™.
"You're facing a really good pitcher in [Dallas] Keuchel and you get the bases loaded there and have a tough at-bat, take some tough pitches, and [at] 3-2, they call one down on me. It's not what you want, but can't do nothing about it now," Smoak said.

The strikeout was one of four opportunities the Blue Jays had to jump on the Astros with the bases loaded in the inning. Luke Maile and Richard Urena opened the frame with a pair of singles, and a fielding error moved the two into scoring position. Jonathan Davis walked to load the bases, then Yangervis Solarte singled to pull the Blue Jays to within one.
After Smoak's called strikeout, Randal Grichuk hit into a fielder's choice to third baseman J.D. Davis, who threw home to get Urena. Kevin Pillar followed with a swinging strikeout to end the inning.

"That's a killer that inning," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "Heck, you get a ground-ball double play you tie the game."
The Blue Jays found themselves in an early hole, as Marco Estrada struggled through the first few innings. He allowed a run in the first, then a pair of home runs to lead off the second. Coming into Monday, Estrada had allowed 27 home runs and had the fifth-highest homers-allowed-per-nine-innings rate of American League starters with at least 100 innings pitched.
"He hung in there," Gibbons said. "The long ball got him and that's where he's vulnerable. ... I don't know what his future is, but he's had a great career here, he really has. He's had some great seasons and he has pitched some big games for us. I have nothing but fond memories.

Despite allowing four runs over just 4 2/3 innings, Estrada walked off the mound to a standing ovation in what was likely his last start for the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. If Monday night was Estrada's final home start, he finished his Blue Jays career with a 4.00 home ERA.
"I don't know what's going to happen next year," Estrada said. "But I gave them a quick thank you. They've always been behind me, they've been the greatest fans ever and how can I not be thankful? It's been awesome. Hopefully it's not my last one."
Astros starter Keuchel only managed five innings, allowing seven hits -- including Pillar's two-run homer in the fourth -- and walking three before he was replaced to start the sixth inning by former Blue Jay Joe Smith.

Smith -- who spent half of 2017 with Toronto -- allowed a leadoff single to Aledmys Diaz, then recorded a pair of outs before being replaced by Will Harris.
Former Blue Jay Roberto Osuna entered the game in the ninth to a chorus of boos from the home fans. He pitched a scoreless ninth and recorded his 19th save of the season.
"It was real weird," Gibbons said of watching Osuna pitch the ninth. "Kind of some mixed emotions, but there was a good chance he was going to get it done. I've seen him do it too many times."

Grichuk hit a leadoff ground-rule double to open the second inning, but that's as far as he would go. Pillar followed with a strikeout, then Diaz walked and Teoscar Hernandez hit into an inning-ending double play.
The called strike three against Smoak appeared to be accurate, but the slugger has shown a good eye at the plate this season. He came into Monday night with the sixth-most walks in the American League and having already set a career high in walks with 83.
"I've been in a better position to lay off tougher pitches," Smoak said. "That's the key, being on time and being able to lay off those tough ones."
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. exited the game after the first inning with left hamstring tightness he sustained after hitting into a double play in the first inning. It was supposed to be a reunion for the Gurriel brothers, Lourdes and Astros first baseman Yuli, but Lourdes only managed one at-bat. More >

"There's a lot I'll remember, it's been the best four years of my career. All the love and support I've gotten here, I've never experienced something like that anywhere. I'm really happy that I was traded here in '15. I know things didn't start off so great, but I'm glad I turned some of the fans around and even now. ... I'm happy for everything that they've done for me." -- Estrada
Sam Gaviglio (3-8, 5.18) will make likely his final start of the season for the Blue Jays at 7:07 p.m. ET on Tuesday at Rogers Centre. Gaviglio is second on the team in innings pitched with 113, trailing only Estrada. He hasn't recorded a quality start in his past four outings. He'll face Astros rookie Josh James (1-0, 2.81) who is making just his third career Major League start. He posted a 3.23 ERA in 23 Minor League outings (21 starts) this year.

Aaron Rose is a reporter for based in Toronto.