Estrada pitch­ing up to the stan­dard many ex­pected this sea­son, shut­ting down Twins ... En­tire Jays ro­ta­tion on fire ... Don­ald­son slugs two more ... ‘Show-me’ time for Bi­agini

Sunday Sports - - SPORTS - ROB LON­G­LEY HIT­TING PITCH­ING rlon­g­ley@post­media.com @lon­g­ley­sun­sport

Marco MINNEAPOLIS — Estrada

has made it clear in his com­ments through­out the past cou­ple months that he wants to re­main a Blue Jay.

He did so when he strug­gled ear­lier in the sea­son and around the an­noy­ing buzz of the trade dead­line.

On Satur­day evening at Tar­get Field, how­ever, the vet­eran right-han­der sent an­other mes­sage to Jays man­age­ment and he did so in the most im­pact­ful way pos­si­ble.

Estrada was bril­liant in one of his fi­nal few starts of the 2017 sea­son, al­low­ing just three hits through eighth in­nings in the Jays 7-2 win over the Twins.

“Ob­vi­ously I want to end on a good note, ev­ery­one does,” said Estrada, who im­proved to 9-8 and is sched­uled to be­come a free agent in the off-sea­son. “If I can fin­ish strong and open up some eyes, maybe and hope­fully I’ll get the chance to come back here.”

The only thing miss­ing from Satur­day’s ef­fort, in what could be a dam­ag­ing blow to the Twins play­off hopes, was the op­por­tu­nity for the 34-year-old vet­eran was the op­por­tu­nity to get the first com­pletegame win of his ca­reer. With 101 pitches thrown,

John Gib­bons Jays man­ager stepped in, how­ever, opt­ing

Matt to go with re­liever Der­mody

in the ninth. Did Estrada want the ball for a shot at some­thing that has eluded him in the bigs? Of course he did.

“I was walk­ing in (to the dugout) and I saw Gibby want­ing to shake my hand,” said Estrada, who pitched eight-plus in­nings for the first time since June 5, 2016 at Bos­ton. “I thought I was go­ing to go out for sure.

“I guess it’s Septem­ber and you don’t want to be out there throw­ing 120 pitches. Ob­vi­ously I wanted the game.” Helped by a pair of home

Josh runs by the red-hot Don­ald­son,

the Jays have won two in a row against the Twins, who are try­ing to main­tain their hold on the sec­ond Amer­i­can League wild­card spot.

While clearly one of his best out­ings of 2017 — and the long­est — it was the punc­tu­a­tion on what has been an im­pres­sive turn­around for Estrada over the past month.

He strug­gled with form in the first cou­ple of months and ad­mit­ted to be­ing both­ered to the point of dis­trac­tion with the trade dead­line blather. But in nine of the past 11 he has started, Estrada has al­lowed three earned runs or less. His con­trol is on point as well, as he has al­lowed one walk or less in six of his past 10, that af­ter walk­ing four plus in six of his pre­vi­ous seven.

Estrada was di­aled in on Satur­day how­ever, re­tir­ing the first 12 bat­ters he faced and do­ing so on just 40 pitches.

The first hit was a noisy one in the bot­tom of the

Ed­die fifth. Twins left fielder Rosario

jumped all over a 2-1 fast­ball and sent it over the wall in left field for a solo homer. He al­lowed a

Brian Dozier sin­gle to in the sixth and an­other big

Ed­uardo homer, this time to Es­co­bar

who ripped one over the right-field wall.

“Vin­tage Estrada, re­ally,” Gib­bons said. “He pitched a heck of a game against a re­ally tough lineup to pitch against.”

HAV­ING A BLAST

The Jays of­fence kicked it up a notch on Satur­day and they were led by the boom­ing bat of Don­ald­son, who is swing­ing with in­cred­i­ble power and con­fi­dence of late.

The former MVP third base­man had a pair of solo homers — book­ended in the first and ninth in­nings — to give him 28 on the sea­son. Don­ald­son, who is swing­ing the bat with the author­ity Jays fans have ex­pected of him, has now had four multi home-run games this sea­son and an AL-lead­ing 19 since the all-star break.

The first-in­ning blast was a 438-foot bomb to left field, fol­lowed by a 408-shot that just cleared the wall in right. That wasn’t all from the Bringer of Rain ei­ther, who added a pair of sin­gles on a four-for-five night at the plate.

“I’m just con­stantly work­ing, be­ing able to make up a cou­ple of ad­just­ments here and there,” Don­ald­son said of his siz­zling fin­ish to the sea­son. “I got a cou­ple of good pitches to hit and was able to take ad­van­tage of it.”

SAY IT ISN’T JOE?

Just about ev­ery player on the Jays ros­ter has their own mo­ti­va­tion head­ing into the fi­nal two weeks of the 2017

Joe sea­son, but for pitcher Bi­agini it’s show-me time.

John Gib­bons Man­ager said that Bi­agini, who will get the start in Sun­day’s con­clu­sion of a four-game se­ries here, es­sen­tially will be au­di­tion­ing for a spot on the 2018 start­ing ro­ta­tion.

“It’s one of those things we’re go­ing to learn,” Gib­bons said. “It’s prob­a­bly about three more starts and it will help us make a de­ci­sion for next year what his role is.”

Gib­bons sug­gested the de­ci­sion may be com­pli­cated, given Bi­agini’s proven ef­fec­tive­ness at long re­lief. Two of his past three starts have been solid, how­ever, an­other fac­tor to pon­der.

“He’s got the stuff to do it (start),” Gib­bons said. “The dilemma is, you leave a gap­ing TOR MIN hole down there if you take him out and make him a full-time starter. But to sign starters, it costs some pretty good money. I think it’s go­ing to be wait and see.”

AP

Blue Jays pitcher Marco Estrada threw eight solid in­nings for the win over the Twins last night.

Don­ald­son Bautista Mo­rales Rosario Estrada Meija

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