TORONTO -- Marco Estrada continued his strong start to the season with six quality innings while the Blue Jays offense took care of the rest in a 7-2 victory over the Mariners on Thursday night at Rogers Centre.
Estrada allowed two runs on four hits and three walks while striking out eight. He has surrendered two runs or fewer in six of his eight starts this season, and has gone at least six innings in all but one of his outings. Despite all of the success, Estrada's win on Thursday was just his second of the year, thanks in large part to a lack of run support but that wasn't an issue vs. Seattle.
Steve Pearce chipped in with a three-run homer for his fourth of the season as he continues to battle back from a slow start to the year. Ezequiel Carrera and Devon Travis added a couple of hits each.
"That first inning gives me a little grief at times," said Estrada, who allowed two runs in the first before quickly settling down. "I don't know what happens, all of a sudden I just kind of turn things around. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn't, and today was just one of those days, but the guys put up a lot of runs for me and it's nice to go out there and pitch with a big lead."
The Blue Jays did almost all of their damage off right-hander Chase De Jong, who was originally selected by Toronto in the second round of the 2012 MLB Draft. De Jong was in control for most of the game, but he was responsible for a five-run fifth inning that proved too much to overcome. He allowed six runs on seven hits and three walks with a strikeout in the third start of his big-league career.
Nelson Cruz hit a two-run homer for the Mariners and Jean Segura added a pair of doubles. Seattle finished 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position and left eight men on base.
"We cannot sit and feel sorry about what's going on," Cruz said. "We have to go out there and compete with what we have and try to win games. We've been doing pretty well without some good players. We definitely want those guys back, but we can't do anything but go out there and compete."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The two-out rally: De Jong appeared to be cruising as he was protecting a 2-1 lead with two outs and nobody on base in the bottom of the fifth. Toronto quickly turned things around as Kevin Pillar, Carrera and Jose Bautista all reached base on a pair of walks and a single.
Smoak then came through with a two-run single and Pearce delivered the final blow with a three-run shot to left field. According to Statcast™, Pearce's fourth of the year was projected to travel 391 feet and left his bat at 103 mph.
"Tough start, there's no question, but he wasn't the only one," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said of Pearce's slow start. "Then he kind of got on track in that New York series. Hit a couple of home runs … He cooled off a little bit and hit the big one tonight. That was a big home run. He was brought here because he has always been able to hit. Sometimes things just go that way early on, but that's not going to last forever."
Cruz connects: Cruz didn't waste any time putting his team in front, hitting a two-run homer in the top of the first inning. According to Statcast™, Cruz's eighth of the year went a projected 427 feet and left his bat at 111 mph. The production should hardly come as a surprise because Cruz has feasted on Blue Jays pitching throughout his career. The first-inning homer was No. 22 in 78 career games against Toronto and he entered play on Thursday hitting .304/.362/.585 vs. the Blue Jays.
"That first inning was kind of tough," said Estrada, who allowed two runs and was forced to throw 27 pitches in the opening frame. "I made a lot of pitches and got hurt with a really bad pitch to Cruz. He crushed it. Even the outs that inning were hit pretty hard. So I'm glad I was able to turn things around and make better pitches after that."
"Estrada threw the ball well. Cruz squared him up early, but we didn't get much going after that. He does what he does. He's one of the better pitchers in the league and he's tough against us because he goes back and forth with that changeup and expands the zone up and down as much as anybody in the league." -- Mariners manager Scott Servais, on Estrada.
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Cruz's two-run homer was the first one surrendered this season by Estrada to someone who doesn't play for the Rays. Estrada entered play on Thursday having allowed five homers on the year, but all of them were courtesy of Tampa Bay.
SOLID DEBUT FOR GAVIGLIO
Mariners rookie right-hander Sam Gaviglio made his Major League debut out of the bullpen and threw two innings with two hits and one run -- on Smoak's homer in the seventh -- while striking out four. The 26-year-old from Ashland, Ore., was promoted from Triple-A Tacoma on Wednesday.
"Dream come true," said Gaviglio. "Ever since I was a little kid, I wanted to pitch for the Mariners. I finally got to do it. My dad was born in Tukwila, Wash., so we were raised as Mariners fans.There's nothing you can really do to prepare for that moment. That moment finally came for me a little later than I wanted, but I made it and got my opportunity."
WHAT'S NEXT Mariners: Right-hander Christian Bergman gets his first start for Seattle's injury-plagued rotation in Friday's 4:07 p.m. PT game against the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. The 29-year-old allowed one run and one hit in 3 2/3 innings of long relief against Texas on Sunday in his first outing after going 5-0 with a 2.17 ERA in five starts for Triple-A Tacoma.
Blue Jays: Right-hander Joe Biagini (0-1, 2.78) will make his second start of the season when this series continues. Biagini transitioned from the bullpen to the rotation during his last outing and had an impressive showing against the Rays despite a limited pitch count. He allowed one unearned run over four innings and his pitch count this time around should be in the 75-80 range.