SEATTLE— Kyle Seager’s sharp liner was caught on a slide. Robinson Cano’s shot to the gap was grabbed on the warning track. Nelson Cruz’s deep fly ball was tracked down at the wall.
The Seattle Mariners opened the biggest home series of the season with a handful of near misses that now have them three games behind in the AL wild-card chase.
“We will get after it, hopefully get a few more hits and see what we can do there,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “We know what’s ahead of us, and we aren’t going to back away from it.”
Marco Estrada took a no-hitter into the seventh inning, Edwin Encarnacion hit his 41st home run and the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Mariners 3-2 on Monday night in the opener of a critical three-game series.
Estrada (9-9) had allowed only two walks before Cano led off the seventh with a line drive up the middle on a 2-1 pitch. Cano and Cruz walked in the fourth — an inning that ended when Kevin Pillar made a sliding catch to rob Seager of a run-scoring hit — but Estrada otherwise kept the Mariners off the bases.
The Blue Jays pulled even with Baltimore for the first wild-card spot. Both teams are 2 ½ games clear of Detroit and three ahead of Seattle and Houston.
Estrada was pulled after walking Leonys Martin leading off the eighth inning, leaving to a standing ovation from the huge Blue Jays contingent that made its way down to Seattle from British Columbia. He struck out eight and walked three before being replaced by Jason Grilli.
That’s when the Mariners’ attempted rally started.
Pinch-hitter Ben Gamel walked to put two runners on with no outs, and Seth Smith walked on a nine-pitch at-bat with two outs to load the bases for Cano. Closer Roberto Osuna entered and got Cano to line out to the warning track in right field where Ezequiel Carrera was playing.
“I didn’t think it had a chance because it was a line drive and I know they was playing no doubles,” Cano said. “I was hoping it would fall in.”
Seattle had another glimmer in the ninth when Martin hit a two-out, two-run homer in the ninth off Osuna, but Gamel struck out looking to cap Osuna’s 34th save.
“We had some good at-bats, couldn’t get a lot of breaks. It happens,” Servais said.
Encarnacion’s two-run homer off starter Taijuan Walker (6-11) came with two outs in the third on an 0-1 pitch that was left up in the strike zone. Pillar added a two-out RBI single in the fourth inning after Troy Tulowitzki led off with a double.
Walker, who has dealt with a foot issue for most of the second-half of the season, took a line drive from Encarnacion off his right biceps in the first inning but remained in the game. He allowed five hits and struck out six in 5 1/3 innings.
“I was kind of amped up a little bit. Everything just felt just a little bit off,” Walker said. “It wasn’t my best but I felt like it was a big test. I kind of just stayed within myself and try to make pitches and get outs.”
Estrada has never completed a no-hitter, but he’s been close. He lost a no-hit bid in the eighth inning against Boston on June 5, and also pitched hitless ball into the eighth inning in consecutive starts in June 2015.
Toronto’s Josh Donaldson was ejected in the seventh inning arguing with plate umpire Chris Conroy after being called out on strikes. Donaldson was already upset about a check-swing Conroy called a strike earlier in the at-bat and flipped at being called out on a fastball on the outside corner. Donaldson immediately got in Conroy’s face and was quickly tossed.
Blue Jays: LHP J.A. Happ (19-4) goes for his 20th win. Happ would join Boston’s Rick Porcello as the only two pitchers in baseball with 20 wins this season. Happ has won 13 of his last 14 decisions.
Mariners: RHP Hisashi Iwakuma (16-11) looks for his third straight victory. Iwakuma allowed just one run in 6 1/3 innings in his last start against the Angels.
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