Marco Estrada, Blue Jays fall to Rays amid waiver rumours

Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Marco Estrada (25) walks back to the dugout after being taken out of the game during fifth inning American league baseball action against the Tampa Bay Rays in Toronto on Tuesday, August 15, 2017. (Frank Gunn/CP)

TORONTO – The mud and murk of American politics these days is so pervasive that when word slipped out Tuesday about a team claiming Marco Estrada on revocable waivers, John Gibbons found a handy analogy for the illicit disclosure of confidential information.

“The leak?” the Toronto Blue Jays manager said with a mischievous grin. “I thought that only happened in the White House, for crying out loud.”

Gibbons, of course, knows fully well that baseball circles can be just as leaky as those in Washington, D.C., increasingly so when it comes to the clandestine world of revocable waivers, which is supposed to remain particularly hush-hush. From trying to prod someone into action to a little bit of gamesmanship on a start day, there is no shortage of motivations for someone to inject such a nugget into the public.

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Either way, Estrada made his start as scheduled against the Tampa Bay Rays, a messy outing in which he allowed six runs on 10 hits and four walks in a 6-4 Blue Jays loss. And he isn’t going anywhere, either, as whichever team put in the claim isn’t going to offer the unrealistic return it would take for the Blue Jays to strike a deal. Gibbons, surely by design, was notably forceful in trying to shoot down the matter, saying, “I wouldn’t read anything into it because I think he’s here to stay,” and wink-winking about his “inside information.” Dude could teach the run of recent White House flaks a thing or two.

The reality is the Blue Jays have been trying to add pitching in recent days, not subtract, as evidenced by their signing of lefty Brett Anderson to a minor-league deal and their ongoing efforts to find other upgrades for the rotation. They have no incentive to move Estrada for anything less than a prime asset.

Whether the leak impacted Estrada or not, his woes against the Rays continued, as he’s now allowed 11 home runs and 33 earned runs over 33.2 innings in losing his last seven starts against the AL East rival.

“I felt OK, I thought I did make some good pitches,” said Estrada. “They find a way against me. It’s just one of those teams that has my number. I haven’t been able to figure them out.”

He started off well with two clean innings out of the gate, but Lucas Duda ambushed a first-pitch change-up after a Daniel Robertson single in the third to put the Rays up 2-1 and Wilson Ramos took another first-pitch change deep to open the fourth.

“They probably were (sitting change-up), I don’t know,” Estrada said of the home runs. “I don’t really pay attention to that stuff and I probably should. My goal the whole time is to try and make good pitches no matter what it is, no matter what they’re sitting on. I really don’t care. I know if I make a good pitch, for the most part, I’ll probably end up winning that battle. I’ve got to do a better job of that, regardless of what they know is coming, or what they’re sitting on.

“None of that stuff really matters if you make a good pitch.”

Estrada’s evening came to an end after bases-loaded walks to Adeiny Hechavarria and Robertson in the fifth.

A poor Rob Refsnyder relay to shortstop Darwin Barney on a Mallex Smith lineout negated a potential double-play earlier in the inning, before Kevin Pillar lost a Ramos fly ball in the lights for a fluke single that loaded the bases.

“I’m upset at myself for letting it get to me,” said Estrada. “I know everybody is trying hard, I’m trying hard, everybody knows that team has given me a hard time and when some of those plays aren’t made, it’s hard to let it go sometimes. Normally I don’t really think about that stuff anymore, I let it go and just think I’m going to (pick up) my teammate and get the next guy out.

“Today it obviously affected me and I walked the next two guys in. That’s really all I’m upset about, is the way I handled it after. There’s no excuse for that. Especially with the bases loaded, you don’t walk somebody in. It got away from me.”

The Rays led 6-1 at the end of the frame, but Josh Donaldson, continuing a boss-like run in August, homered for the third straight night, a three-run shot off Blake Snell in the bottom of the fifth that made it a two-run game. He has seven homers in 13 contests this month.

Snell settled down from there, getting through six innings, while Steve Cishek, Tommy Hunter and Alex Colome closed out a strange day in which the game was played both on and off the field.

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