Estrada's season a pleasant surprise for Blue Jays

By: Bob Elliott

Canadian Baseball Network

This was the way it was drawn up during the winter:

Josh Donaldson went deep for his 28th homer.

This was the way it was drawn up, oh way back about last week:

Troy Tulowitzki homered, his 14th.

Yet, the rest of it -- the Blue Jays sixth win in their last eight -- this was not really the way it was drawn up:

Right-hander Marco Estrada pitched into the seventh, allowed one run against the Minnesota Twins, their wild-card race rivals, before a lively crowd of 26,504 fanatics Tuesday at the Rogers Centre.

And the no-name bullpen -- Mark Lowe, Aaron Sanchez and Roberto Osuna -- took over pitching 2 1/3 hitless innings as fans chanted “Let’s Go Blue Jays! throughout the ninth until Torii Hunter was retired for the final out in a 3-1 win.

Fans chanted “MVP! MVP!” when Donaldson comes to the plate.

They make like Colorado Rockies fans with a “Tu-LOW! Tu-LOW!” cry when his name is announced.

But Estrada chants are like the numbers he puts up on the scoreboard: zero.

Estrada led the National League in home runs allowed (29) last year with the Milwaukee Brewers making only 18 starts and pitching 150 2/3 innings.

“Last year was an off year, if they had left me in the rotation things would have levelled off,” Estrada said. “I had a good year in 2012 although my numbers (5-7, 3.76 in 23 starts) might not show it.

“I don’t care about strikeouts, I don’t care if I strike out another hitter, I don’t know any of my numbers (quality starts), I know I have nine wins. I want to go seven or nine, give my team a chance to win.”

Estrada is 9-6 with a 3.67 ERA as a starter after allowing one run in 6 2/3 innings with eight quality starts in 17 outings since leaving the bullpen. Mark Buehrle leads with way with 16 in 21 starts, followed by R.A. Dickey (13-for-22) and Drew Hutchison (6-for-21). 

Brian Dozier singled leading off the fourth and two Estrada walks loaded the bases. Hunter hit a run-scoring fly ball and Estrada caught Eddie Rosario looking to end the threat. A Rosario double with two out in the seventh chased Estrada, only the second hit he allowed. 

Lowe, who began the season at triple-A Tacoma and made his Seattle Mariners debut May 6, retired Aaron Hicks, representing the tying run in seventh. He allowed four runs in 36 innings in 34 games with Seattle and then three in his Saturday debut taking the loss against the Kansas City Royals.    

Sanchez, who began the season in the rotation, worked a scoreless eighth, showing no problems pitching with the suspenders under his jersey -- he was handed a three-game suspension earlier for hitting Alcides Escobar on Sunday, but is appealing -- had a 1-2-3, nine pitch inning.   

On came Osuna to work a 1-2-3-(walk to Miguel Sano)-4 ninth for his eighth save. 

“It’s incredible the scouting, what goes on behind the scenes,” said Estrada, “to give a kid a chance at his age (20) to make the team, then see him as a closer. They have basically found every piece of the puzzle.”

Before the game LaTroy Hawkins introduced Osuna and Sanchez to Everyday Eddie Guardado, who had 187 career saves, and is now a Twins coach.

Hawkins, another piece, trying to improve a younger piece.

The band wagon rolls on, two more against the Twins before heading to New York for a weekend series against the first-place Yankees.


Walking: Paul Molitor, a Toronto resident from 1993-95, went for a long walk Monday night ... all the way to the Toronto Yacht Club on Sunday (about six miles by his guess) and from his downtown hotel, “past the SkyDome,” to Bathurst and back on Tuesday afternoon. So, how many times was the World Series MVP from 1993 recognized? “Once at a Starbucks ... some one said ‘Hey it’s Paul Molitor!’” Molitor plans on stopping by to see president Paul Beeston before the Twins leave town Thursday night and hopes to see his former manager Cito Gaston.


Numbers: David Price threw 119 pitches on Monday afternoon in his eight inning gem against the Twins ... and he also threw a two-pound weighed ball against a Rogers Centre girder underneath the stands before he went out each inning. “It keeps me loose,” said Price, “I throw eight and catch them, I start with two out ... or one out and a man on first.” Price’s longest outing since June 25, 2014 as he pitched the Tampa Bay Rays to a 5-1, complete-game win over the Pittsburgh Pirates. Price was working on six days rest. Manager John Gibbons said he would was unsure about starting Price on short rest when the New York Yankees come to Toronto Aug. 14-16, saying “he’s here to get us over the top ... not to get abused.” Price recorded 11 strikeouts the most ever by a Jays in his debut. Jose Nunez had 11 strikeouts against Kansas City in his first start but it was his 17th game with the Jays.     


Twitter feed: With Jose Bautista firing on Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost, Royals right-hander Yordano Ventura shooting insults back and alumni players in town for a Honda Super Camp we asked a few who would have been the most fun to read had Twitter been around back then? One player guessed Danny Cox. Two more said Todd Stottlemyre and another guessed Derek Bell. When told of the Bell as the No. 1 choice another player said “yeah, but Derek would have hit send before he finished typing.