Marco Estrada has had all kinds of trouble against the Tampa Bay Rays this season.
After another loss against them Tuesday night, the Blue Jays right-hander was left searching for answers once again.
Estrada allowed two homers among 10 hits and walked back-to-back batters with the bases loaded in Toronto's 6-4 loss to its division rivals — Estrada's fourth against the Rays in four starts this year.
"They find a way against me, just one of those teams that has my number," Estrada said. "I haven't been able to figure them out. It's unfortunate.
"I felt OK today. I felt like I made decent pitches and next thing you know I'm down six runs — it sucks. I've got to see what's going on, find out why this team has so much success against me but it is what it is. I've got to make better pitches, I guess."
Letdown after good starts
Estrada (5-8) snapped a streak of four strong starts, allowing six runs through 4 1/3 innings. The 34-year-old, who had posted a 2.08 earned-run average over his last four outings, also walked four and struck out three.
He has given up 22 earned runs over 18 2/3 innings against the Rays this year.
Tuesday's outcome may have been different for Estrada, though. Tampa took a 6-1 lead in a regrettable fifth inning that saw Rob Refsnyder botch a double play ball and Kevin Pillar lose a pop fly in the darkening centre-field sky to load the bases.
Estrada, who admitted to losing focus after that, walked in the next two batters.
"I'm upset at myself for letting it get to me," Estrada said. "I know everybody's trying hard, I'm trying hard. Everybody knows the 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. ... But 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."
Manager John Gibbons also rued his team's defensive miscues.
"We had a tough inning," Gibbons said. "We didn't turn two on that line drive and then Kevin lost it in the twilight — that's a tough sky, that happens — but it opened up the inning. Overall it didn't look good but [Estrada's] stuff was good."
Blake Snell (1-6) earned the win, his first in nearly a year, working six innings and allowing four runs on seven hits, one walk and four strikeouts. The 24-year-old lefty hadn't won a game since Sept. 22, 2016.
Lucas Duda and Wilson Ramos hit homers off Estrada, and Corey Dickerson added an RBI single to help Tampa Bay (60-61) snap a four-game losing streak. Alex Colome pitched the bottom of the ninth for his 35th save.
Josh Donaldson hit a three-run blast and Pillar drove in a run for the Blue Jays (57-62), who halted a three-game winning run.
Donaldson's homer also ties Aaron Hill for 18th on the @BlueJays' all-time HR list (96) while reaching the 500-RBI milestone for his career— @StatsCentre
Toronto left-hander Tim Mayza, called up from triple-A Buffalo on Monday, made his MLB debut in a scoreless ninth inning, allowing two hits and striking out one.
"It was pretty much everything I could have dreamed of," said Mayza, who had his parents, sister, brother, girlfriend and his college coach in the stands. "It was a great experience."
Estrada was pitching on Tuesday after reports came out that he was claimed off revocable waivers, according to Jon Morosi of MLB Network.
The claiming team is not known, and the Blue Jays do have the option to pull Estrada off waivers and keep him on their roster.
Jays manager John Gibbons said before the game that parting ways with Estrada would be unlikely.
"My gut tells me nothing's going to happen," Gibbons told reporters. "Or maybe my inside information tells me nothing's going to happen."
On news Estrada claimed waivers, Gibby:"nothing's going to happen. We need him. Gut tells me nothing's gonna happen, or I have inside info"— @thehazelmae
According to Baseball Prospectus, a source told the publication the claiming team was in the AL East and without actually naming the team, implied it was the New York Yankees. They reportedly did so to block any other teams from making a deal.
Since a team placed a claim on Estrada, they are the only team allowed to make a deal for him. If Estrada had gone through waivers unclaimed, then Toronto would have been able to trade him to any of the 29 teams in the league. They can also pull him back and not trade him.
Asked if he'd like to see the pending free agent back with Toronto next season, Gibbons replied: "No doubt about it."
It's important to note that placing players on revocable waivers is fairly commonplace after the non-waiver trade deadline, because it keeps teams options open.