By Gregor Chisholm and Troy Provost-Heron
ST. PETERSBURG -- Marco Estrada carried a perfect game into the eighth inning as the Blue Jays and Rays were locked into an intense pitchers' duel until Toronto's Chris Colabello hit a solo homer in the top of the 12th inning to secure a 1-0 victory on Wednesday. The game also featured a spectacular diving catch by Josh Donaldson that gave Estrada a shot at making history.
During his last outing, Estrada took a no-hitter into the eighth inning, and his follow-up performance was even better. The veteran righty retired the first 22 batters he faced until Logan Forsythe hit a weak grounder to third base that resulted in an infield hit. Estrada's night eventually came to an end with two outs in the ninth after he struck out 10 and threw a career-high 129 pitches while taking a no-decision.
"It was a little frustrating, just because it wasn't hit very hard," Estrada said of losing the perfect game in the eighth. "Donaldson made a great play, and the guy could run a little bit, so he beat it out. It was fine, you know, the ninth inning I gave up a hard-hit ball, the base hit to [Kevin] Kiermaier, and it made it a little better. It was easier to forget about, but I'm just glad we pulled this game off."
As good as Estrada was on this day, the Rays' pitching staff was almost as impressive. Right-hander Nathan Karns had a no-hitter until the sixth and finished with three hits allowed over six-plus scoreless innings. Four relievers then combined to toss five scoreless innings until Colabello's solo shot with one out in the 12th off Brandon Gomes gave Toronto the go-ahead run it needed.
"Obviously, really well-pitched ballgame on both sides," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "Both teams probably had some opportunities, didn't capitalize and go figure, a solo homer is basically what wins it. Nate Karns was outstanding. Our bullpen guys top to bottom were just tremendous. To do that against the lineup, with the kind of thump they have, is pretty impressive, and I think that really makes a statement about how good our pitchers are."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Just need one: After 11-plus innings of scoreless baseball, Colabello finally tacked a run on the scoreboard with a blast to center field in the top of the 12th. Rays reliever Gomes had retired designated hitter Russell Martin to lead off the inning, but three pitches later, Colabello jumped on a 1-1 fastball to provide the game-winning run for the Blue Jays.
"It was just a fastball down and away," Gomes said. "I didn't quite get it there, I guess, and he put a good swing on it and that was it … [It is tough], especially with the way the guys in the bullpen were throwing ahead of me, to kind of be the guy who doesn't follow suit is obviously tough, but the worst part is that we lost, 1-0."
Estrada loses bid for perfect game: Estrada's bid for a perfect game came to an unfortunate end with one out in the eighth inning when Forsythe hit a weak grounder to third base. Donaldson knew he didn't have a lot of time, so he charged the ball and made a barehanded grab before unloading a strong throw to first. Donaldson did everything the right way, but it still wasn't enough as Forsythe beat the throw by a split second, which replays later confirmed as well. More >
Donaldson's spectacular grab: One play before the infield single, Donaldson made what could be considered an early candidate for catch of the year with a diving grab into foul territory. David DeJesus lifted a popup toward the seats along the third-base line, and Donaldson tracked it along the way before diving approximately three rows deep to make the catch. That got Estrada one step closer to a potential perfect game, but it ended in the following at-bat with the infield single by Forsythe. More >
Work out of it: After tossing five no-hit innings to start the contest, Karns ran into some trouble in the sixth inning. The right-hander got Colabello to fly out to start the inning -- marking the 12th straight batter he had retired -- but allowed Kevin Pillar to hang the game's first hit on the scoreboard in the ensuing at-bat. After Karns struck out Ryan Goins, Pillar stole second and third, and Karns allowed a pair of walks to Jose Reyes and Donaldson to load the bases, but he got Jose Bautista to pop out to third baseman Evan Longoria to get out of the jam. More >
"If I had to give you a percentage, I was about 62 percent sure. I hit one out here last year, so I had a pretty good feel. I got a little nervous when I saw Kiermaier running after it the way he was. But it was pretty cool seeing it sail over the wall" -- Colabello, on go-ahead homer in 12th
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Estrada became the first Major League pitcher to take a no-hitter into the eighth inning in consecutive starts since Toronto right-hander Dave Stieb in 1988. Stieb had each of his no-hitter attempts broken up with two outs in the ninth while both of Estrada's bids ended in the eighth. In more recent years, Dustin McGowan (2007) and Brandon Morrow (2010) lost their bids in the ninth inning.
Forsythe's infield single to end Estrada's perfect-game bid was challenged by the Blue Jays to see if Donaldson's throw to first beat him, but after a 40-second review, the call on the field was confirmed.
WHAT'S NEXT Blue Jays: Left-hander Mark Buehrle (7-4, 3.90 ERA) will take the mound when the Blue Jays open a three-game series against the Rangers on Friday at 7:07 p.m. ET at Rogers Centre. Buehrle has allowed two runs or fewer in each of his past four starts and hasn't lost since May 23. His ERA on May 1 was 6.75, but since that time he has seen it drop all the way down to 3.90.
Rays:Alex Colome (3-3, 4.50 ERA) will get the ball Friday to kick off a three-game series against the Red Sox at Tropicana Field at 7:10 p.m. ET. In his only career start against the Red Sox on May 6 at Fenway Park, the right-hander received a win after allowing just two runs on four hits in five innings. This time, however, he will face them at home, where he hasn't been as sharp this season, posting a 2-2 record with a 5.34 ERA.