TORONTO — Marco Estrada had one of his shortest outings of the season in the Toronto Blue Jays' 9-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday night.
The Blue Jays all-star yielded three runs (two earned) on seven hits and four walks over five shaky innings. It was only the third time in 21 starts this season that Estrada (7-5) has failed to make it through at least six innings.
Evan Longoria drove in three runs and Logan Forsythe had a solo homer and two RBIs for Tampa (46-66). Drew Smyly (4-11) pitched six innings for the win.
Devon Travis and Melvin Upton Jr., on a sacrifice fly, drove in runs for the Blue Jays (64-50), who entered the night tied with Baltimore (63-48) for control of the American League East.
The night began ominously enough for the 33-year-old Estrada. Forsythe led off the game with a home run on an innocent-looking drive to right that just cleared the wall behind Jose Bautista.
Estrada, who had given up only two earned runs in three career starts against the Rays, managed only one clean inning, somehow working his way through troublesome spots such as the jam he faced in the third. After yielding a pair of singles, the second of which saw Rays catcher Luke Maile advance to third after Bautista tripped over his feet trying to make a throw, Estrada walked Evan Longoria to load the bases.
With only one out, Estrada struck out Brad Miller swinging on a change-up before forcing Mikie Mahtook to pop out and end the inning.
Estrada was not as fortunate an inning later. He issued a pair of walks to Corey Dickerson and Maile before Forsythe, on a 1-1 count, ripped a grounder off the pitcher's mound that Travis tracked down but could not transfer for a throw to either second or first. Travis bobbled the ball again as Dickerson aggressively pursued home, scoring just ahead of a throw for a 2-0 Rays lead.
Tampa kept it coming in the fifth.
Miller doubled to right on a ball that leapt over Justin Smoak's glove at first. Steven Souza Jr. drove in Miller with a RBI-single. Estrada only just avoided more damage when Tim Beckham blasted a shot to the second deck in left that hooked just left of the foul pole.
Estrada struck out Maile on his 113th pitch. He ended the night with six punchouts.
Toronto rallied later that inning with two runs of their own off Smyly.
Singles for Troy Tulowitzki and Michael Saunders were scored on Upton Jr.'s sacrifice fly — his first RBI as a Jay — and a Travis RBI-single. It was the 12th hit in the last six games for Travis, who had a career-high four-hit game on Monday night.
The Rays pushed their lead to 5-2 in the sixth, plating a pair off rookie Danny Barnes. Barnes walked two and then yielded hard hits to Longoria and Mahtook. The rookie hadn't allowed a run in either of his first two big league appearances.
The Jays threatened in the bottom half of the inning, loading the bases with nobody out on singles from Josh Donaldson and Edwin Encarnacion along with a Russell Martin walk. Smyly escaped though, retiring Tulowitzki (pop-up), Saunders (strikeout) and Smoak (pop-up) in order.
Tampa continued to pick apart Jays pitching, hammering reliever Scott Feldman for six hits and four runs in the top of the seventh. The Rays rung off five straight hits at one point, including a two-run single for Longoria. Feldman has struggled since he was acquired from Houston. He gave up three earned runs in his previous outing, a loss to the Royals on Sunday.
Toronto's bullpen, strong last week on the road, gave up six runs over four innings of work.