Estrada, Blue Jays shut out Braves 5-0 to stretch lead
ATLANTA (AP) Marco Estrada keeps showing he belongs in Toronto's postseason rotation.
That's quite an accomplishment for a pitcher who began the season in the bullpen.
Estrada combined with Roberto Osuna on a three-hitter, Cliff Pennington, Edwin Encarnacion and Josh Donaldson hit home runs, and the Blue Jays beat the Atlanta Braves 5-0 on Thursday night to extend their lead in the AL East.
The Blue Jays lead the New York Yankees, who did not play Thursday, by 3 1/2 games. Toronto won two of three games for their first series win over the Braves since 2008.
Estrada (13-8) allowed three hits with four strikeouts and two walks in eight innings. He did not allow a baserunner to reach second base.
''He shut them down; he's been doing it all year,'' Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said.
Estrada lowered his ERA to 3.14 with his third start of the season with at least eight scoreless innings. His .206 opponents' batting average leads the American League.
It's quite a season considering his first six appearances came in relief.
''I just want to help the team any way possible,'' Estrada said when asked to reflect on his move from the bullpen.
Estrada faced 27 batters and threw 28 balls among his 99 total pitches.
Adding to his memorable night was his single in Toronto's four-run fourth.
''I got lucky,'' he said.
Encarnacion led off the fourth with his 33rd homer, off Matt Wisler (5-8) and into the fifth row of the seats in left field. Pennington hit a three-run shot later in the inning.
Donaldson added a ninth-inning homer off Sugar Ray Marimon. The three homers boosted Toronto's season total to 207, most in the majors.
Osuna pitched a perfect ninth.
Wisler allowed four runs and nine hits in six innings.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said it was important for Wisler to make it through six innings.
''That was a big goal,'' Gonzalez said. ''And we pushed him a little bit. We wanted him to go back out there. We gave him that challenge.''
Pennington has three homers this season, two on the 6-4 road trip.
''I'm definitely not trying to hit homers, but I'll take `em if they come,'' he said.
Former President Jimmy Carter and wife, Rosalynn, sat in their usual seats near the Braves' dugout. Carter, 90, recently announced he has cancer that spread to his brain. The two received a loud cheer when shown on the video board during the ''Kiss Cam'' promotion. Carter kissed his wife and then gave a big smile as the cheers continued.
BLUE JAYS: Gibbons said SS Troy Tulowitzki will join the team in Toronto after having a specialist examine his injured left shoulder. He was expected to miss at least two weeks after cracking his shoulder blade in a collision on Sept. 12. ... Gibbons said 2B Devon Travis will have an exploratory arthroscopy on his left shoulder on Wednesday.
BRAVES: LHP Manny Banuelos is expected to be ready for spring training after surgery Thursday to remove bone spurs from his left elbow.
BLUE JAYS: RHP Marcus Stroman will make his second start of the season Friday night in the opening game of a home series against Boston. In his first start following his recovery from left knee surgery, Stroman gave up three runs in five innings in a 10-7 win over the Yankees on Saturday.
BRAVES: In the opening game of a series which could decide last place in the NL East, RHP Williams Perez will face Phillies LHP Adam Morgan on Friday night.