TORONTO, ON – JUNE 16: Marco Estrada #25 of the Toronto Blue Jays is congratulated by J.A. Happ #33 and teammates on the top step of the dugout as he comes out of the game in the seventh inning during MLB game action against the Washington Nationals at Rogers Centre on June 16, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Marco Estrada;J.A. Happ

It has been a tale of two seasons thus far for Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Marco Estrada. With only one year remaining on his contract, all eyes were on the experienced pitcher at the start of the year, to see if he could be the leader of this rotation. Estrada had a modest start to the season. In April, he went 2-2 with one no-decision. Despite having a 0.500 record in the first month of the season, it was concerning to see that his ERA was 3.60 in five games pitched. Of the 18 earned runs he gave up, seven were home runs, demonstrating that many opposing batters were able to take advantage of his pitches that were often hanging in the strike zone.

The month of May would not be kind to Marco. He was 0-4 with two no-decisions and an ERA of 3.60 over six games. Of those 19 earned runs given up over six games pitched, five were home runs. Heading into the month of June, Estrada’s ERA was at a career-worst 5.68. His WHIP was a 1.48, well above his career average of 1.19.

Something needed to change. Otherwise, the Jays would be left with an asset that was a shell of his former stellar self.

Estrada Returns to Dominant Form

On June 10th, in the series finale against the Baltimore Orioles, the Blue Jays came out with a chip on their shoulder. Putting up 19 hits, the Jays would record 13 runs, mostly on behalf of Curtis Granderson’s four-for-five, six RBI day.

But it was Estrada, which caught the attention of many fans that Sunday afternoon. He pitched six solid innings, giving up only two earned runs on four hits and recording nine strikeouts. The Jays would sweep the Orioles by winning 13-3, and Marco could finally validate a strong pitching performance after recording his second win of the season.

However, it was this past Saturday against the Washington Nationals where Jays fans could finally see their starting pitcher return to form. What better opportunity than to show what you are made of when you face Nationals ace Max Scherzer, who has a 2.06 ERA and already has 10 wins this season. Before the contest with the Jays, Scherzer was holding opponents to a 0.171 OBP.

With the Jays ranked 25th in offense and a team batting average of approximately .230, it would appear as though the Nats would have the edge in this contest. But Marco stood toe to toe against Scherzer, pitching a brilliant 6.2 innings of shutout baseball, only giving up three hits and tallying four strikeouts. Devon Travis would be the hero, providing a two-run home run that would seal the deal, giving the Blue Jays a must needed win over the surging Nationals. The last time Estrada beat Scherzer was on June 2, 2016, before the Jays went on an 11-game win streak.

After receiving an ovation from the fans in Rogers Centre, Estrada was appreciative and grateful. “It’s nice to hear the fans behind you,” the pitcher said. “We’re all working hard every day and I know at times we can be frustrating. We frustrate these fans because we’re not winning. But we’ve put together some pretty good games lately and it’s just nice to see that they have our backs.”

Can Estrada Be Dealt at the Deadline?

With only one year left on his contract, there is not much of an expectation that the Jays will re-sign the starting pitcher if they keep him the whole season. This provides opportunities for Blue Jays management to perhaps package Estrada in a deal that could send prospects back to Toronto.

Take the Seattle Mariners, for example. They are currently in a wild card position in the American League, trying to make the playoffs for the first time since 1998 (the longest current postseason drought in baseball). In 47.2 innings pitched in the postseason, Estrada has an ERA of 2.64. He also has won two elimination games for the Blue Jays in the 2015 and 2016 playoff runs. Given those numbers when it really matters, it would not be surprising to see the Mariners make a splash for the experienced right-handed pitcher.

The tenure of Marco Estrada in Toronto is slowly coming to an end. For Jays fans, his recent performances remind us of better times when the club was winning and hopefully he can keep up his performance so we can get high upside prospects at the deadline.

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