SEATTLE — The Seattle Mariners can’t seem to get their struggling bats back in a groove and end their freefall in the AL playoff picture.
Toronto’s Marco Estrada became the latest to leave Seattle’s batters baffled, using his mix of offspeed pitches to take a no-hitter into the seventh inning of the Blue Jays’ 5-1 win over the Mariners on Saturday night.
Estrada (5-8) was masterful with his changeup, keeping the Mariners guessing all night. He didn’t give up a hit until Mitch Haniger’s one-out double just inside third base in the seventh inning. It was just Seattle’s second baserunner after Nelson Cruz walked leading off the second inning.
Estrada was pulled after walking Ryon Healy to open the eighth inning, leaving to a standing ovation from the thousands of Toronto fans in attendance. Estrada struck out four and allowed one earned run when Healy scored on Chris Herrmann’s sacrifice fly.
"The fans made it seem like a playoff game," Estrada said. "It gave me a lot of energy and a lot of excitement and got the adrenaline going. When I walked off and got a great ovation, it was awesome."
Seattle has lost five straight and fallen 2 1/2 games back of Oakland for the second AL wild card. The Mariners’ slumping offence looked even more meagre against Estrada, who entered the day with a 4.90 ERA and had allowed four earned runs in four innings in his last start. Estrada also induced plenty of weak contact as Seattle struggled to make the adjustment between speeds.
Ryan Tepera finished off the eighth and Ken Giles pitched the ninth in his second appearance since being acquired by the Blue Jays.
"You’ve got to try to simplify things a little bit. That’s what we’ve got to get to. Instead of making it harder, make it a little simpler because what we’re doing right now is not working," Seattle manager Scott Servais said.
Seattle starter James Paxton (9-5) lost for the third time in his past four starts against the team he no-hit earlier this season in Toronto. The damage against Paxton came via two blows: Devon Travis’ two-run single in the third and Aledmys Diaz’s solo home run leading off the fifth.
Travis has seven RBIs in the first three games of the series; he had seven RBIs the entire month of July.
"If you’re not aggressive against (Paxton) it’s even tougher. We stayed aggressive tonight," Travis said.
Paxton was able to get through the seventh thanks to inning-ending double plays in the first, third and fifth innings, and another key double play in the seventh. He struck out seven and has allowed three earned runs or fewer in 14 of his last 17 starts.
Paxton was unhappy with his curveball and it allowed the Blue Jays to look for mostly fastballs.
"They knew I didn’t have my good breaking stuff tonight," Paxton said. "Nothing was very sharp. The ball was kind of rolling into the zone. I think that allows them not to have to respect that pitch as much and they can cheat on the fastball."
Toronto added two more runs off Seattle’s bullpen on Justin Smoak’s RBI single off Sam Tuivailala in the eighth and Brandon Drury’s double off James Pazos in the ninth. Toronto has scored 10 runs — seven earned — off Seattle’s bullpen in the first three games of the series.
Mariners: 2B Dee Gordon was a late scratch from the lineup Saturday because of a sore ankle. Manager Scott Servais expects Gordon to play Sunday. … RHP Erasmo Ramirez will make one more rehab start Sunday for Triple-A Tacoma. Servais expects Ramirez to return to the active roster if all goes well. … Servais doesn’t know how long RHP Juan Nicasio, who was placed on the 10-day DL Friday, could be on the DL because of his knee situation. "Juan’s frustrated that it hasn’t felt good. He wants to make it right. I certainly think he can come back and impact this year down the stretch, but I don’t know."
Blue Jays: RHP Sam Gaviglio (2-4, 5.10) is expected to make his 15th start of the season Sunday afternoon. Gaviglio has lost four of his last five starts while allowing 19 earned runs over 20.1 innings for an 8.51 ERA over that span.
Mariners: RHP Mike Leake (8-7, 4.16) is scheduled to make his 23rd start of the season Sunday afternoon. Leake is on pace to make at least 30 starts for the seventh consecutive season. He is one of only four pitchers who made at least 30 starts every season from 2012-17.