TORONTO -- Contending teams should take note: The Marco Estrada of old appears to be back.
Estrada tossed seven scoreless innings to pick up his third consecutive quality start in the Blue Jays' 4-0 victory over the Yankees on Thursday night. He has gone seven innings in each of those three starts and has allowed just four runs over the same span.
The veteran righty initially was expected to be dealt before the non-waiver Trade Deadline, but his prolonged struggles stopped that from happening. Teams might not have been interested before, but they should be now after Estrada made a series of mechanical adjustments and has experienced a return to form.
"I've been feeling good for a little while now," Estrada said after picking up his first victory since May 27. "I've changed my mechanics a little bit and things are kind of working out ... I feel like I'm getting pretty good downhill plane when I'm throwing fastballs and changeups. I'm able to elevate a lot, and it's kind of going back to how I was pitching before. Before that rough month and a half."
It's sometimes easy to forget, but Estrada was one of the top pitchers in the league through the first two months of the season. He had a 3.15 ERA at the end of May, but he then proceeded to go 0-5 with a 9.52 ERA over his next nine outings. The problem didn't have anything to do with velocity, or poor health, but instead with his delivery and a lack of command, which at one point included 30 walks over 33 innings.
There were signs of optimism in a July 26 start against the A's, when Estrada allowed two runs over five innings, and he followed that up with three strong outings in a row.
On Thursday night, it was vintage Estrada. Even when he got into trouble in the fifth inning by allowing the first two batters to reach base, he bounced back by getting a pair of shallow fly balls and then striking out Aaron Judge to end the threat.
"I don't think he could have been any better tonight, and really his last three starts," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "It's like he's found that groove again. No matter what he's throwing, he's locating it. They're not picking up the changeup. I don't think he could be any better. Really looks like the way we've always seen Marco pitch."
The big question now is whether the last three outings will be enough to entice a contending team to take a shot on Estrada. He's a proven performer in the postseason and has pitched some of the biggest games in Toronto franchise history. He wants to stay, but if the retooling Blue Jays can get an enticing asset in return for the pending free agent, he might not get his wish.
"I said it a million times that I want to play for these guys," Estrada said. "I know it's a business and if you get traded, you get traded. There's nothing you can do about it, and I would go on to help whatever team I belonged to, but I wanted to stick around with these guys.
"It is a little weight off your shoulders once you realize you're not going anywhere. I know we will have a month and things could happen, but I'm really not thinking about it anymore. It's nice to still be here."