Blue Jays: Estrada proving his worth as the ace, despite record

Apr 9, 2017; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Marco Estrada (25) looks on as he drops the ball and reacts after giving up a two-run home run during the third inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 9, 2017; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Marco Estrada (25) looks on as he drops the ball and reacts after giving up a two-run home run during the third inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Blue Jays wasted another strong start from Marco Estrada on Thursday afternoon, dropping the rubber match with the Boston Red Sox by a score of 4-1 in 10 innings.

The Blue Jays just can’t seem to put together any offence in the early going of the season, which is a shame because the pitching staff is holding up their end of the bargain. Marco Estrada was dominant again on Thursday, throwing 6 shutout innings, allowing just 3 hits and striking out 7 batters.

The outing lowers Estrada’s season ERA to 2.63, as the 33 year old has been strong in 3 of his 4 outings thus far this season. He gave the Blue Jays plenty to work with on Thursday again, especially against the dynamic offence of the Red Sox.

Such has been the case far too often for the Blue Jays this season, as one could argue that they should be above .500 based on the performance of their pitching staff alone. In fact, the staff has allowed 2 runs or fewer in 10 out of the team’s 16 games. With an offence as good as the Blue Jays’ (on paper of course), that should equate to a lot more than 3 wins.

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In Estrada’s case in particular, he allowed 2 runs over 6 innings in the opener against the Orioles, had a hiccup in his second start, and then pitched 7 shut out innings against Baltimore in his second opportunity against them, striking out 8 and allowing just 4 hits. Combing her performance on Thursday, and Estrada has gone 13 straight shut out innings, only to have an 0-1 record and two straight no-decisions to his credit.

As the change-up specialist nears the end of his current contract, many GM’s around baseball will be paying close attention. He’s not a traditional ace, in that he doesn’t blow away the competition, but rather keeps hitters off balance just enough to keep them at bay. He’s been an effective starter since he joined the Blue Jays’ rotation in 2015, and there’s no reason to think he’ll slow down any time soon, especially given the approach he employs.

The key to Estrada’s value is the health of his balky back, which has looked especially strong in the early going of the season. If he can stay healthy over the course of the campaign, he’ll not only help the Blue Jays contend to whatever end they’re going to, but he’ll also add more years and dollars to his next free agent contract.

If the Blue Jays can’t right the ship by the time the All-Star break rolls around, Estrada could be an especially valuable rental pitcher for a contending team, if the Blue Jays decide to sell prior to the deadline. He’s a proven performer in the regular season, and has been a clutch performer for the Blue Jays in their last two playoff runs, ultimately proving to be John Gibbons’ most trusted starter in a big game.

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Here’s hoping Estrada will be pitching those big games for the Blue Jays this fall, and beyond if they can extend him, but if not, there’s a good chance he’ll be getting the ball in an important game, somewhere. He’s proving he’s worthy of the term “ace”, and those guys are always in demand come September.

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