Estrada pitches gem in Blue Jays’ 4-0 win

Blue Jays 4 Yankees 0

TORONTO — The non-waiver trade deadline came and went and Marco Estrada was still a member of the Blue Jays. The relief he’s felt at staying in Toronto has shown in his performances.

Estrada has struck out 18 while walking six over 21 innings in his three starts since the deadline with a tidy 1.71 earned-run average including Thursday’s seven scoreless innings in a 4-0 win over the Yankees. In the three starts before the deadline with trade rumours were swirling he walked 11 and struck out 12 over 13 1/3 innings to go along with a ballooning 7.56 ERA.

“It is a little weight off your shoulders once you realize you aren’t going anywhere,” said Estrada, who struck out six while walking three and surrendering five hits in Thursday’s win. “I know we still have a month and things could happen, but I’m really not thinking about it anymore. It’s nice to be here still.”

Josh Donaldson and Kevin Pillar had RBI singles and Ezequiel Carrera scored on a fielder’s choice as the Blue Jays (54-60) improved to 7-6 against the Yankees (60-53) this season while taking two games in the three-game series. Jose Bautista added a solo home run in the seventh.

Estrada (5-7) picked up his first win since a 4-2 victory over the Texas Rangers on May 27 — a span of 12 starts.

“He was a hot topic of trade rumours for the longest time and then last two starts have been after the trade deadline, maybe that was on his mind a little bit too,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said before the game. “First start was after the deadline, he’s still here. Maybe now it eases his mind that he knows that he’s here.”

The right-handed Estrada got into his first jam of the evening in the fifth inning, surrendering a leadoff single to Garrett Cooper and then walking Ronald Torreyes. However, Estrada got both Brett Gardner and Aaron Hicks to fly out before catching Aaron Judge looking to end the threat.

“What I’m usually kind of good at is not paying attention to that stuff,” Estrada said of the fifth inning. “I try and look at (the catcher’s) glove and hit it. That’s basically it, that’s all I’m worried about. I know if I hit my spot on most pitches, I can be successful. I don’t let that kind of stuff get to me.”

The Blue Jays got on the board in the second thanks to some heads up base running by Carrera. The right-fielder reached on a double off the wall in right, and then took third on a poor pick-off attempt by Yankees starter Sonny Gray. On a Ryan Goins dribbler back to the mound, Carrera slid under Gary Sanchez’s tag to give Toronto a 1-0 lead.

Donaldson’s RBI single added to Toronto’s lead in the third. Pillar’s RBI single in the fourth made it 3-0 for the Blue Jays. The hit saw Pillar snap a 0-for-10 slump with runners in scoring position.

“I was trying to put together a good at-bat,” said Pillar. “You fall behind 0-2, it makes it a little bit more difficult, but I really just tried to remain calm and see the ball deep. I was prepared to fight off some tough pitches and fortunately I was able to squeeze one through.”

Gray (6-7), who made his second start for the Yankees since being dealt from Oakland on July 31, went six innings and allowed three runs – two earned – on four hits while walking four and striking out six. The right-hander fell to 1-3 in four career starts at Rogers Centre.

Note: Following the game the Blue Jays announced they will recall RHP Chris Rowley from triple-A Buffalo to make Saturday’s start against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

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