Estrada hopes to solve woes vs. Rays

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Some pitchers have one team, they cannot seem to find any success against, even over an entire career.

No matter what they do, the wins are elusive.

For Toronto Blue Jays starter Marco Estrada, that team is the Tampa Bays, who attempt to complete a three-game sweep Sunday afternoon at Tropicana Field.

Estrada is 1-8 with a 4.96 ERA in 14 career appearances against the Rays. Last season was especially difficult for Estrada, who was 0-4 with a 10.61 ERA in four starts when he allowed 35 hits, walked eight in 18 2/3 innings for a WHIP of 2.30.

The last time Estrada faced the Rays was Aug. 15 in Toronto, when he allowed six runs and 10 hits in 4 1/3 innings. Since then Tampa Bay’s roster has undergone so many changes that only players still on the Rays from that game are Mallex Smith, Wilson Ramos, Adeiny Hechavarria and Daniel Robertson.

Estrada gave up nine home runs in those four starts, though it’s a sign of how much the Rays turned over their batting order that only two of those home runs are by current Tampa Bay players — one each from Ramos and Jesus Sucre.

His 1-8 record is his worst against any American League team — the only other opponent where he has more than two more losses than wins are the St. Louis Cardinals (0-5).

This year, Estrada is 2-2 with a 6.19 ERA. He has allowed at least four earned runs in each of his last four starts, and he’s allowed nine home runs this year, including two Tuesday in a no-decision at Minnesota.

On Tuesday, he gave up homers to left-handed hitters Joe Mauer and Eddie Rosario on four-seam fastballs.

“I’ve got to locate that pitcher better because I do throw a lot of them,” Estrada said. “I know I don’t throw very hard. That’s the reason why it’s happening.

“If I’m not locating that pitch at 88, 89 miles an hour, it’s going to get hit a long ways. I have less room for error than most pitchers do, so I need to get better with throwing four-seam fastballs where I want to. Plain and simple, I’ve got to make better pitches.”

The Rays’ answer owns remarkably similar stats — Chris Archer is 2-2 with a 6.05 ERA, though he’s coming off a tough-luck loss, holding the Detroit Tigers to two runs in six innings with six strikeouts and one walk Tuesday.

Archer continues to struggle pitching efficiently, so he can stay deeper into games. His longest outing this season is 6 2/3 innings. He had lasted at least 6 2/3 innings five times in his first eight starts last season, and fewer innings means more work for the Rays’ bullpen.

“(Archer) went out there and competed and made pitches, made quick work of a lot of the guys,” Tampa Bay’s Johnny Field said. “He really gave us a chance to win, and it’s kind of a shame we couldn’t get a couple runs for him, but he threw the ball really well tonight.”

For his career, Archer is a solid 7-4 with a 3.09 ERA in 24 starts against the Jays. He had a 2.65 ERA last season in five starts against Toronto.

The Rays won the series opener 6-2 on Friday night, getting five sharp innings of scoreless relief from Ryan Yarbrough on a “bullpen day” as the Rays push through injuries in their starting rotation. Tampa Bay won 5-3 on Saturday, getting solid pitching from Jake Faria and a five-out save from Alex Colome.

A win Sunday would put the Rays at .500, an impressive comeback from a 1-8 and 4-13 start to their season.

Toronto has dropped 10 of its last 15 games after committing three errors Saturday.