Estrada like 'old self' in big start for Toronto

Righty delivers win vs. O's following back-to-back tough outings

Estrada like 'old self' in big start for Toronto

BALTIMORE -- Blue Jays manager John Gibbons seemed to sense Marco Estrada would return to form Monday night at Camden Yards. He was right.

After Estrada had allowed five or more earned runs in back-to-back starts after not doing so in his first 20 outings, the righty stifled the Orioles' power-hitting lineup in a 5-1 victory. Estrada held the Orioles to one run on four hits over seven-plus innings, just his second time completing seven innings since June 5.

As Toronto attempts to hold onto its American League East lead over the final month of the regular season for its second straight division title, Estrada will be a crucial member of the rotation. When the Blue Jays held onto their division lead last year, Estrada's performance down the stretch was pivotal. Over his final eight starts, he posted a 2.79 ERA.

This season, he held a sub-three ERA all year until July 29, only to have his two outings before Monday push his ERA to a season-high 3.47.

"He was like his old self," Gibbons said. "A good changeup. He was hitting his spots."

Estrada said a key for him was throwing his curveball more through the first five innings. After not having command of his pitch arsenal the past two times out, he felt confident with his whole repertoire against the O's.

"I think what I did today was threw a good amount of first-pitch strikes or at least I was around the zone, wasn't missing by much on the first pitch," Estrada said. "You've got to get ahead of these guys. There's really no easy breaks, one through nine, it's tough."

The lone run off him came on a 2-2 changeup to J.J. Hardy that the Baltimore shortstop launched over the fence to lead off the third. But even that, Estrada said, was a good pitch that Hardy just put a good swing on.

So when Estrada walked off the mound after surrendering a leadoff single in the eighth, he received a standing ovation from a small blue-clad contingent of Blue Jays fans behind Toronto's dugout. He raised his glove, acknowledging the support, before dipping into the dugout.

Ryan Baillargeon is a reporter for MLB.com based in Baltimore and covered the Blue Jays on Monday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.