- Associated Press - Sunday, May 17, 2015

HOUSTON (AP) - Feeling good after throwing five solid innings, Toronto Blue Jays starter Marco Estrada said he felt he had at least one more frame in him.

“I asked to go back out but didn’t realize where my pitch count was,” Estrada said.

At 98 pitches, he was done. As things turned out, Toronto might have fared better by giving him the ball again for the sixth.

Chris Carter and Marwin Gonzalez hit home runs off Blue Jays reliever Liam Hendricks in the inning, and Toronto squandered an early lead to go down 6-5 Saturday night for the team’s fourth straight loss.

This one was particularly frustrating for the Blue Jays, who led 3-0 after the first inning, sparked by a two-run triple by Russell Martin.

“We got off to such a quick start; you felt really good,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said. “They hung close and opened it up late with the homers.”

Estrada gave up two runs on three hits including a two-run homer by Evan Gattis in the third. He struck out eight but also walked four.

“I didn’t realize my pitch count was so high,” Estrada said. “That’s what walks are going to do.

“I’ve got to go deeper in games. That’s all I’m thinking about, going six-plus.”

Jeff Francis (1-2) replaced Estrada to start the sixth with Toronto leading 3-2.

But Francis got in trouble quickly, allowing Preston Tucker to single and Colby Rasmus to hit a ground-rule double to set the stage for Carter.

“I was just trying to keep the ball up the middle and hit it hard and whatever happens, happens,” said Carter, who entered the game batting just .155.

Marwin Gonzalez took Hendricks deep to right centerfield one out later to cap the scoring for the American League West-leading Astros, who, at 24-13, are off to their best 37-game start since 1999.

“When we get four quality plate appearances in the first four or five hitters, that’s how you piece together runs and how we came back tonight,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said.

Toronto made it close late, thanks to pinch-hitter Edwin Encarnacion’s two-run blast with two outs in the ninth off Luke Gregerson.

Gregerson recovered to get Josh Donaldson to fly out for the final out and the save, his ninth.

Gattis hit his seventh homer of the season, and right-hander Scott Feldman (3-4) overcame a rough start to last 6 2-3 innings and strike out 10.

“Feldman gave up three in the first and then he settled in,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said. “He’s a proven, crafty veteran.”

It was Feldman’s first win since April 30 against Seattle and came after back-to-back losing decisions to start May.

Martin drove in Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista with his triple to right center. He came home on a Josh Smoak one-out single to make it 3-0 Toronto.

But that would be all the Blue Jays would muster offensively against Feldman, who allowed them just two hits the rest of the way as the Astros claimed their third straight over Toronto.

“We haven’t been playing great baseball,” Gibbons said. “And this has been a tough place for us, for whatever reason.”

BIG HITS

Encarnacion’s pinch-hit home run was only the second of his career and the first pinch-hit homer by the Blue Jays this season. … Martin’s triple in the first inning was his first since Sept. 9, 2007, at San Francisco.

STREAK CONTINUES

Donaldson’s double in the first extended his streak for reaching base safely against the Astros to 34 games. It is the longest active streak in the majors for any player versus a particular club.

HIGH COUNT

Feldman’s 10 strikeouts were the most since he fanned a career-high 12 on May 1, 2013 against San Diego.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Blue Jays: 2B Devon Travis left the game with left shoulder irritation after striking out in the seventh. … SS Jose Reyes, on the disabled list (cracked rib) since April, took batting practice. He is expected to go on rehab assignment next week.

UP NEXT

Blue Jays: LHP Mark Buehrle (5-2, 5.54) will try to win his third straight decision.

Astros: RHP Collin McHugh (4-1, 3.50 ERA) will look to rebound after posting his first loss of the season Tuesday against San Francisco.


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