Morales continued his hot hitting with yet another home run, a two-run shot to right field off of Vince Velasquez that made him just the seventh player in major-league history to homer in seven consecutive games.
Unfortunately for the Blue Jays, however, that was nearly all the offence they’d manage in an 8-3 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies that ended Toronto’s winning streak at five.
By homering in seven consecutive games, Morales passed Jose Cruz Jr. to take over sole possession of the Blue Jays’ franchise record. The streak also established a new high-water mark for MLB hitters this year, breaking a tie with Matt Carpenter of the Cardinals.
One of the bats Morales used during his streak will now go to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
“It’s a lot of emotions,” he said through interpreter Josue Peley. “I’m really happy that they want my bat. It’s amazing what I’ve been doing so far. It’s emotionally really nice.”
With another homer Monday, Morales could join Ken Griffey Jr., Don Mattingly and Dale Long, the three hitters who share the major-league record of eight consecutive games with a home run. Kevin Mench, Jim Thome and Barry Bonds also homered in seven consecutive games.
“That’s pretty impressive,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “It’d be something if he kept this rolling. I don’t think any of us can comprehend how hard it is to do.”
After a slow start to the season, Morales now has a distinctly above-average .264/.343/.484 slash line with 21 home runs. As his production has continued, many of his critics have disappeared.
“You win their hearts back when you do some really good things,” Gibbons said.
Randal Grichuk also homered for the Blue Jays, hitting his 18th of the season over the left-field wall in the eighth.
Meanwhile, Estrada was unable to escape the third inning. It was apparent from the start that he wasn’t as sharp as usual, as Rhys Hoskins and Carlos Santana hit back-to-back homers in the first inning. Three of the next four hitters reached, and even though none of them scored, it took Estrada 34 pitches to record his first three outs.
“I wasn’t making pitches,” Estrada said. “For the most part I had no idea where the ball was going. I made a lot of mistakes and I got hit hard for them.”
The second inning was slightly better, but Estrada still walked two and allowed a double. When the first three hitters reached in the third, it was time for manager John Gibbons to call on his bullpen.
“He’s a little banged up,” Gibbons said. “It’s just one of those days.”
After the start, Estrada acknowledged that he has been battling back soreness for the past couple of weeks. Despite those issues, he expressed confidence that his back will improve and that he’s still capable of helping the Blue Jays compete every five days.
“I don’t think it’s a secret,” he said. “I’ve stayed away from saying anything, but it’s pretty obvious I’m not 100 per cent right now. But I’m good enough to be out there and I don’t plan on missing anything. I’m going to work through this and maybe get a cortisone shot or something and numb it up and be ready to go.”
Estrada retired just six of the 17 hitters he faced on the afternoon, allowing three home runs and four walks. He averaged 87 m.p.h. with his fastball, topping out at 89 on a day he threw 71 pitches. An outing like this won’t exactly encourage contending teams looking for pitching reinforcements to call the Blue Jays, especially when considering health.
Because of Estrada’s early departure, the Blue Jays had to get seven innings from their bullpen. In an encouraging development, Justin Shafer contributed three scoreless innings. Tyler Clippard, on the other hand, allowed three runs while recording just one out.
From here the Blue Jays head to Baltimore to face the Orioles and starter David Hess. That’s good news for the Blue Jays, who are 12-1 against the Orioles this season, and better news for Morales, who homered off Hess when they faced last week.
As Gibbons said. “Keep it going. See what the heck happens.”