Estrada's gem puts Blue Jays back in WC tie

Estrada's gem puts Blue Jays back in WC tie

SEATTLE -- Marco Estrada allowed one hit over seven-plus innings and Edwin Encarnacion supplied the punch with a two-run homer as the Blue Jays opened a critical three-game series at Safeco Field with a 3-2 victory over the Mariners on Monday night.

The win pulled the Blue Jays back into a tie with the Orioles for the two American League Wild Card spots, with both teams 82-68 after Baltimore lost to Boston, 5-2. Seattle fell three games back at 79-71, tied with Houston a half-game behind idle Detroit, with 12 games remaining.

With a largely pro-Blue Jays crowd making the two-hour trek down from British Columbia to supply a playoff-type atmosphere, Estrada had a no-hitter for six innings before Robinson Cano's leadoff single in the seventh. The 33-year-old Estrada walked three and struck out eight while evening his record at 9-9 with a 3.62 ERA.

"It means the world just to pull off a win, regardless of what happened with me. It's something we needed," Estrada said. "We struggled the last two days and hopefully we start turning it around, but it means a lot to get a win as a team.

"Honestly I think the biggest key was that I was able to throw the changeup for strikes. I was around the plate with it and I had a lot of swings on it. I need guys to swing at it and try to make contact with it. For the most part, I was getting weak contact with it."

Estrada steps up in playoff-like atmosphere

Estrada flirts with a no-hitter

The Mariners narrowed the gap in the ninth with a two-out, two-run homer by Leonys Martin off closer Roberto Osuna before Osuna struck out Ben Gamel for his 34th save.

Mariners right-hander Taijuan Walker, who threw a three-hit shutout against the Angels in his last start, gave up five hits and three runs in 5 1/3 innings as he fell to 6-11 with a 4.32 ERA.

"We've got to keep playing," Seattle manager Scott Servais said. "That's what the schedule says, and that's what we'll do. That's what we've done all along. If I'm not mistaken, we play the same team tomorrow, and they happen to be ahead of us. So tomorrow will be a good game. We'll get after it."

Early wake-up call: Walker struck out the first two Blue Jays batters in the first inning before Encarnacion scorched a line drive up the middle that glanced off his left biceps and ended up in right-center field for a base hit. The ball had an exit velocity of 103 mph, according to Statcast™, and Walker was fortunate to escape serious damage. After a quick visit from manager Scott Servais and trainer Rob Nodine, Walker stayed in and immediately walked Jose Bautista on four pitches. But he got out of the inning on a flyout to center by Russell Martin and seemed fine until he appeared to tweak his troublesome right ankle when fielding a bunt in the fourth.

"I'm fine. It just got me dead a little bit for a second, but after that, it was fine," Walker said of the line drive. "It was coming in hot. I thought I had a chance, but it was coming too hot." More >

Walker gets hit by a comebacker

The Ed-Wing: Encarnacion gave his team's struggling offense an early boost with a two-run homer to left field in the top of the third inning. The Statcast-projected distance on Encarnacion's 41st homer of the season was 379 feet and it left his bat at 103 mph. Toronto's veteran slugger is now one home run shy of his career high, and he's already set a career high with 120 RBIs, which ranks first in the AL.

"We got the big two-run homer from Eddie. He continues to have a tremendous year," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "[Kevin Pillar] had a super night. A lot of guys did."

Encarnacion's two-run shot

Familiar face: Toronto had a 3-0 lead and was threatening to break the game open with two on and one out in the sixth when Walker was replaced by Drew Storen, the former Blue Jays reliever who was acquired in a trade for Joaquin Benoit on July 26. Storen struggled this season in Toronto, but he stymied his former team by striking out Melvin Upton Jr. and Pillar and added another strikeout in the seventh that led to Josh Donaldson's ejection. Since a rocky debut for Seattle, Storen has posted a 2.13 ERA over 12 2/3 innings.

"That was fun," Storen said. "That's the first time I've played my former team. It was neat, and double it up with the atmosphere, it doesn't get much better than that. I had a huge target on my back, and rightfully so, but I thrive on that stuff. I love it."

Storen escapes a jam

Osuna Matata: Toronto carried a 3-0 lead into the bottom of the eighth, but that's when things got a little bit dicey. Estrada walked the leadoff hitter and then reliever Jason Grilli walked two of the next four batters to load the bases with two outs. Blue Jays manager John Gibbons turned to his closer, Osuna, as Cano stepped to the plate. Cano worked a 2-2 count before he sent a deep drive to right field that Ezequiel Carrera caught on the warning track. That allowed Osuna to escape the jam and although he did surrender a two-run shot to Martin in the ninth inning he was still able to pick up the save.

"Most of our games are like that," Gibbons joked when asked about the late-inning drama. 

Osuna strands the bases loaded

"I think that pitch was low. I didn't think I had a chance because it was a line drive and I knew they were playing no-doubles [deep]. I was hoping, but it ended up being the third out." -- Cano, on his deep drive with the bases loaded in the eighth

"I'll tell you what, these Western Canadian fans are something special. Hard-nosed. They love you. I've never seen anything like it." -- Gibbons, on the number of Blue Jays fans in attendance

The Mariners successfully challenged a safe call on Pillar in the top of the ninth when the Blue Jays center fielder attempted to advance to second on a wild pitch in the dirt. After a quick review, the call was overturned for the first out of the inning.

Iannetta throws out Pillar

With Martin's home run, the Mariners now have six players with 15 or more homers for just the fifth time in franchise history. Only once has Seattle had seven players with 15-plus homers (1997), and Dae-Ho Lee and Franklin Gutierrez are both sitting at 14 with 12 games to go.

This was the fourth time over the last two years that Estrada carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning. Last season, he carried no hitters into the eighth inning vs. the Rays and Orioles. Right-hander Dave Stieb remains the only pitcher in Toronto history to toss a no-hitter.

Blue Jays: Left-hander J.A. Happ (19-4, 3.27 ERA) will get an opportunity to face one of his former teams when the Blue Jays continue their three-game series vs. the Mariners on Tuesday at 10:10 p.m. ET. Happ is looking to become a 20-game winner for the first time in his career, which would also tie David Wells for the most wins in franchise history by a left-handed pitcher.

Mariners: Veteran right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma (16-11, 3.87 ERA) starts Tuesday's 7:10 p.m. PT game at Safeco Field, and he has a history of success against Toronto, going 4-1 with a 1.54 ERA in five career starts and 2-1, 1.23 ERA in three games vs. the Blue Jays in Seattle.

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Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.