Marco Estrada misses perfection, Blue Jays top Rays 1-0

In a game full of non-stop action, the Toronto Blue Jays were nothing short of spectacular on this wonderful Sunday afternoon.

On a beautiful day at Tropicana Field, veteran right-hander Marco Estrada took to the bump where he faced off against 27 year-old left-hander Nate Karns and the Tampa Bay Rays. Today was a day where Marco really needed to prove what he’s got and did exactly that throughout the course of what would end up as a 1-0 Toronto win after 11 innings in the rubber match of a three game set.

Estrada’s excellence started off early thanks to his dominant pitching, as well as the help of Jose Reyes, who made a picturesque play from deep in the hole at shortstop to throw Joey Butler out at first base to end the top of the first inning. As the game moved forward, Estrada continued to keep the ball away from the Rays, not allowing a hit and keeping his perfecto alive.

During the bottom of the seventh inning, a slight scare occurred when Marco threw a fastball down the middle of the plate to Rays third baseman Evan Longoria. Evan smacked the 1-1 offering deep into right field where it continued to cut into the corner of the wall. Estrada nearly lost it when Jose Bautista all of a sudden came sliding on his knee and right into the wall where he ended up making a spectacular catch to keep the no hitter viable heading into the eighth inning.

The Blue Jays’ bats were silenced during a long afternoon of no run ball, but managed to get a few past the infield where they just got lucky thanks to sloppy defense by the Rays. Blue Jays manager John Gibbons made the decision to keep Estrada in for the bottom half of the eighth to see what he had left in him. That was the right decision, to say the least. The inning started with veteran outfielder David DeJesus.

Estrada got David up to a 3-2 count when he hit a high fly ball down the third base side, headed for the seats. At that point, third baseman Josh Donaldson decided to go right after it and tossed his body right into the stands. As he flew forwards, Donaldson had his glove facing backwards and sure enough made the incredible backhanded catch while flying into the seats. It was reminiscent of Derek Jeter‘s play in 2004 while chasing a ball off the bat of Earl Snyder.

Estrada continued on to face 2 more hitters. Logan Forsythe hit a soft grounder towards Donaldson at third which took an odd bounce, throwing Donaldson’s timing off on the play. It ended up being reviewed after both the runner and ball reached the base at nearly the exact same moment. After having the review crew take a look at the play in New York, the call on the field stood, giving the Rays their first hit of the game. This did not end Estrada’s afternoon however, as he got the nod to start off the bottom of the ninth inning where he allowed three more hits before being removed from the game.

Roberto Osuna and Bo Schultz were both called upon in the ninth inning to finish it off. That took the game to the top of the tenth to see what damage the Jays could produce against RHP Steve Geltz to win the game. After having Encarnacion, Navarro, Martin, Colabello, and Pillar all up to the plate, another scoreless inning went by. Another slow inning went by in the 11th, with no action off the bats of Jose Bautista, Ezequiel Carrera, Dioner Navarro, and Russell Martin.

Brett Cecil got the nod for the bottom of the inning where he dominated as part of a relatively quick 1-2-3 inning, taking the game to the top of the twelfth. Russell Martin led off the inning against LHP Brandon Gomes and flied out to right field before Colabello stepped up with a chance to put the Jays ahead. With a 1-1 count on the scoreboard, Colabello chased a fastball and absolutely crushed it to left field, giving the Blue Jays a 1-0 lead that held for the remainder of the inning. To close out the 12 inning marathon, John Gibbons called upon Steve Delabar who got the first two hitters down on strikes before getting Brandon Guyer to fly out to Kevin Pillar in centre field, giving Delabar his first save of the 2015 season after having faced a challenging first half of 2015 with the club’s Triple-A affiliate located in Buffalo, NY.

After the game, Marco Estrada spoke with Sportsnet’s Barry Davis about giving up his first hit of the afternoon where he said “It was a little frustrating because it wasn’t hit very hard,” said Estrada. “(Josh) Donaldson made a great play and the guy can run a little bit so he beat it out. It was fine, the ninth inning I gave up a hard-hit ball, base hit to (Kevin) Kiermaier and that made it a little better, it was easier to forget about.

“But I’m just glad we pulled this game off.”

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