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Estrada goes 5 strong; final Blue Jays start?

MLB.com @gregorMLB

TORONTO -- Marco Estrada doesn't want to publicly acknowledge it, but there's a chance that Wednesday night marked the final time he stepped onto the mound as a member of the Blue Jays.

Estrada tossed five relatively strong innings in a 3-2 victory over the Athletics. After struggling for the last seven weeks, there were glimpses of his former self mixed in with bouts of command issues. The only question now is whether it was enough to entice another team to take a chance on him for the stretch run.

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TORONTO -- Marco Estrada doesn't want to publicly acknowledge it, but there's a chance that Wednesday night marked the final time he stepped onto the mound as a member of the Blue Jays.

Estrada tossed five relatively strong innings in a 3-2 victory over the Athletics. After struggling for the last seven weeks, there were glimpses of his former self mixed in with bouts of command issues. The only question now is whether it was enough to entice another team to take a chance on him for the stretch run.

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The veteran righty has been asked about the trade speculation a lot in recent weeks. The constant rumors clearly have taken a toll, and although Estrada insisted that he doesn't think about it, his overall body language indicates otherwise.

If Wednesday night turns out to be the end of the line, then Estrada can at least take solace in the fact that he ended on a positive note. He entered play with a 9.52 ERA over his last nine starts and had not completed five inings in more than a month. It was a different story against a struggling A's lineup, even if Estrada doesn't quite see it that way.

"I'm not happy with the way I threw the ball," said Estrada, who scattered three hits with four strikeouts. "I don't necessarily walk guys and I've been walking a lot of guys. It's something I'm working on. It was a little better today, but I still don't like the way I'm throwing the ball. That's not me, I don't walk people."

Video: OAK@TOR: Estrada leaps for a crafty stop

The walks have been the most mystifying part of Estrada's recent struggles. He's always been known as a finesse pitcher, but after walking four batters on Wednesday night, he has now issued 30 free passes over his last 33 innings. His fastball has been erratic at times and the changeup, which is his go-to pitch, frequently has been left up in the zone.

None of these things are particularly enticing for teams who are trying to load up on talent for a stretch run, but solely focusing on the last seven weeks also would be turning a blind eye to what Estrada accomplished earlier in this career. He was arguably Toronto's most valuable pitcher during each of its last two runs in the postseason, and even earlier this year Estrada had a 3.15 ERA at the end of May.

There's no denying the experience and the upside. If there's a team out there willing to gamble on a return to form, Estrada could pay off as a short-term rental. He's a free agent at the end of the year, and with Toronto's front office publicly admitting it is building toward 2018 and beyond, it makes sense that the club would aggressively look to move him.

"I think once he started getting into that third, fourth inning he looked like the old guy," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "He was starting to stick it better. He gave up the two-run homer and we were down, but I think he has to be able to take something from that. He's probably still a little frustrated, but we saw some good things."

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