Estrada takes step forward in loss to Mariners

Right-hander allows four runs in seven innings in longest outing of season

Estrada takes step forward in loss to Mariners

TORONTO -- Calling his outing a breakthrough might be overstating it, but Marco Estrada certainly took a step forward in Friday's start against the Mariners. Trouble was, he went head-to-head with one of the game's best pitchers.

Estrada, making his fourth start since joining the Blue Jays rotation, threw seven innings and 100+ pitches for first time this season but was bested in the end by a solid start from Felix Hernandez as Blue Jays fell to the Mariners, 4-3, in the series opener at Rogers Centre.

"The first two times out, I was pretty tired by the third or fourth inning, felt a little fatigued," Estrada said. "Today, I could have kept going. Now I've gone up to seven innings, close to 100 pitches, I'm ready to go now. "

After beginning the season in the bullpen, Estrada became a starter in early May when the club optioned Daniel Norris to Triple-A Buffalo.

It's a role he's familiar with, having made 71 starts over parts of seven seasons prior to joining the Blue Jays. But the right-hander finished 2014 in the bullpen and was settling into a relief role this season when he got the call for the rotation.

Since reclaiming his starter's title, Estrada said he's been able to steadily build himself back up to the point where he can make it deeper into games without fighting fatigue.

His night was derailed Friday when Kyle Seager dribbled a flukey single down the third-base line off the end of the bat with two outs in the fourth inning.

That preceded three straight Mariners hits for three runs as the visitors took a 3-1 lead. Nelson Cruz hit a pivotal solo homer in the sixth that ended up swaying the match in the Mariners' favour.

Jamie Ross is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.