The Associated Press
SEATTLE—After weeks of mostly poor performances, Marco Estrada once again flirted with a no-hitter for Toronto.
And just when the Blue Jays needed that quality of a performance.
Estrada took a no-hitter into the seventh inning, and Edwin Encarnacion hit his 41st home run, as the Jays edged the Seattle Mariners 3-2 last night in the opener of a critical three-game series.
Estrada (9-9) had allowed only two walks before Robinson Cano led off the seventh with a line drive up the middle on a 2-1 pitch.
Cano and Nelson Cruz walked in the fourth—an inning that ended on Kevin Pillar’s sliding catch to save a run—but Estrada otherwise kept the Mariners off the bases before Cano’s single.
Estrada’s outing was exactly what the slumping Jays needed. They arrived in Seattle having dropped two-straight games and four-of-six, and their wild-card lead dwindled in the process.
Estrada was partly to blame for the September swoon. In his previous six starts, he was 1-4 with a 7.53 ERA.
In September alone, Estrada had allowed 12 earned runs in 12 2/3 innings.
But he was brilliant against the Mariners last night—keeping the thousands of Jays’ fans who made the trip south from B.C. cheering all night as Toronto pulled even with Baltimore for the first wild-card spot.
Both teams are 2.5 games clear of Detroit, and three ahead of Seattle and Houston.
Estrada was pulled after walking Leonys Martin leading off the eighth inning—leaving to a standing ovation from the huge Jays’ contingent.
He struck out eight and walked three before being replaced by Jason Grilli.
The final six outs were trying for the Jays. Pinch-hitter Ben Gamel walked to put two runners on with no outs in the eighth.
Seth Smith then walked on a nine-pitch at-bat with two outs to load the bases for Cano.
Closer Roberto Osuna entered and got Cano to line out to the warning track in right.
Martin hit a two-out, two-run homer in the ninth but Gamel struck out looking to cap Osuna’s 34th save.
“We know what’s ahead of us and we aren’t going to back away from it,” said Seattle manager Scott Servais.
“I thought our guys gave a really good effort tonight, just wasn’t enough.”
Encarnacion’s two-run homer off starter Taijuan Walker (6-11) came with two outs in the third.
Pillar added a two-out RBI single in the fourth inning after Troy Tulowitzki led off with a double.