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Estrada dominant as Blue Jays take series with win over Yankees

Blue Jay Ezequiel Carrera scores ahead of the tag, attempted by Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez, during their matchup in Toronto on Thursday.

Fred Thornhill/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Wandering into the Toronto Blue Jays clubhouse at Rogers Centre on Thursday before their game against the New York Yankees was a bit like entering a time warp.

Instead of the incessant rap and hip-hop that normally assaults the senses, a Quiet Riot classic rock was roaring out of the speakers. You can always tell when old-school Russell Martin, the Blue Jays catcher, is playing DJ.

Among the songs on the playlist was Eye of the Tiger, the Survivor ditty made famous by the Rocky III movie in which Sylvester Stallone once again picks himself up off the canvas to battle his way to boxing glory.

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It is the same sort of predicament the Blue Jays find themselves in as they have been knocked senseless by injury and sub-par play for most of the season.

The Blue Jays will require more of the opportunistic and heads-up baseball they displayed Thursday night in a 4-0 victory over the Yankees if they hope to clear away the cobwebs and make any sort of a serious run for the playoffs.

The Blue Jays (54-60) earned a 2-1 series win over their American League East rival.

In the process, Toronto got the better of Sonny Gray, the big arm the Yankees (60-53) acquired at the trade deadline, who they are counting on to put them over the top in their push toward the postseason.

Gray, who was touched for three runs (two earned) off four hits over six innings, is now 0-2 in his first two starts wearing Yankee pinstripes.

The Blue Jays received a huge helping hand from their starter, Marco Estrada, who appears to have left his early season struggles in his rear-view mirror with a third successive solid outing.

Estrada was dominant and his trademark changeup was precise. He wound up pitching seven innings for the third consecutive outing, blanking the Yankees on just five hits while striking out six.

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"I felt pretty good," Estrada said. "I was locating the fastball early on and some decent changeups in there. I kind of mixed everything up [in the game]."

Jose Bautista chipped in with his 19th home run for Toronto, and third in the past four games, off New York reliever Chasen Shreve in the seventh.

In the what-else-is-new department, the Blue Jays added another name to the 10-day disabled list on Thursday. Reliever Taylor Cole, who only made his major-league debut on Wednesday, was placed there after X-rays revealed he had suffered a broken right toe.

Cole was injured when a comebacker pelted his foot.

Before the game, Kendrys Morales was a sorry sight to behold.

The Blue Jays designated hitter was bundled up in a bulky sweat shirt, the hoodie pulled way up over his head so that you could barely see his face. He was lying motionless on one of the clubhouse couches.

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Morales wound up being scratched from the starting lineup because of illness. As a result, Bautista was shifted from right field into the DH spot with Ezequiel Carrera got the start in right.

Carrera took advantage of his late entry, stroking a one-out double off Gray in the second inning. Carrera then took third base when Gray made an errant pick-off attempt for an error.

Carrera was off and running when the next batter, Ryan Goins, beat one into the dirt and the ball rolled just a few feet from home plate.

Gray raced in from the mound and in one motion scooped the ball with his gloved hand to catcher Gary Sanchez.

But Carrera made an excellent dive, extending a hand on the plate just ahead of the tag, and Toronto had a deserving 1-0 lead.

Some heads-up base running by Bautista extended Toronto's lead to 2-0 in the third when he drew a walk and then stole second.

Jose Donaldson then hit a two-out looper to left and Bautista steamed all the way home.

The Blue Jays, who entered the game with a .220 batting average hitting with runners in scoring position – MLB's worst success rate – made it 3-0 in the fourth when Kevin Pillar grounded through the left side that scored Steve Pearce from second.

It was all enough to secure the win for Toronto starter Marco Estrada, who appears to have left his early season struggles in his rear-view mirror with a third successive solid outing.

Estrada was dominant and his trademark changeup was precise. He wound up pitching seven innings for the third consecutive outing, blanking the Yankees on just five hits while striking out six.

The game's key moment for Estrada and the Jays occurred in the fifth inning with the Blue Jays leading 3-0 and the Yankees threatening with their first two runners on board for the top three hitters in the New York batting order.

Estrada gathered himself to get Brett Gardner to fly out lazily to left and then Aaron Hicks on a pop up to first.

But his best was yet to come when he then struck out hot-shot rookie Aaron Judge looking on a perfectly placed 73-mile-an-hour changeup to the outside lower half of the plate to end the uprising.

"It's like he's found that groove again," Toronto manager John Gibbons said.

After the game the Blue Jays announced that Chris Rowley, a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, will get the start for Toronto on Saturday against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

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