Estrada on target with eight shutout innings

Estrada on target with eight shutout innings

TORONTO -- Right-hander Marco Estrada has helped bring stability to a Blue Jays rotation that -- outside of Mark Buehrle -- has struggled with consistency.

The soft-tossing Estrada continued to impress on Sunday as he delivered eight shutout innings to help the Blue Jays to earn a 4-0 win over the Rays in the rubber game at Rogers Centre.

"He's been as good as anybody," manager John Gibbons said. "He's got that knack for making a big pitch, getting the big out when you have to."

Gibbons on win over Rays

That big pitch, as usual, was the 31-year-old's changeup. Estrada used his offspeed weapon to finish off hitters in three of his five strikeouts on the afternoon, and he mixed in a steady stream of fastballs to keep the Rays off-balance as he recorded 14 outs in the air.

"We purposely went up a bunch of times and that's what's gonna happen if guys make contact," Estrada said. "They're probably gonna pop it up or hopefully you miss up, and they swing and miss or pop up. That's what happened today and I've always been a fly-ball pitcher, so none of this surprises me."

Estrada retired 15 in a row until Logan Forsythe hit a one-out single in the eighth inning -- a minor inconvenience that was erased with back-to-back strikeouts.

Outside of the Forsythe single, Estrada allowed only two other baserunners. James Loney singled in the second and Tim Beckham doubled in the third, but both were thrown out by Dioner Navarro, who picked off Beckham at third and caught Loney stealing second.

Estrada, who was dealt to the Blue Jays in exchange for Adam Lind in an offseason trade with the Brewers, has thrown 21 consecutive scoreless innings against the Rays.

On his current stretch of strong outings, Estrada has held the opposition to two earned runs or fewer in six consecutive starts and he's 6-1 over his last eight games.

Not bad for a guy who started the season in the bullpen.

"We liked him when we picked him up, but we really didn't know a whole lot about him," Gibbons said.

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