TORONTO — Marco Estrada is subscribing to the theory that how he finishes is more important than how he starts.
After struggling earlier in the season, Estrada is coming on strong. He earned his third consecutive winning decision Monday night in the Toronto Blue Jays’ 4-3 victory over the Baltimore Orioles in the opener of a three-game series.
Finishing well is especially important for Estrada because he can become a free agent at the end of the season.
“It’s always how you finish, right?” Estrada said. “If I can show I’m back to my normal self, what I’ve done for the last few years for these guys, maybe they’ll want me back, and I’m hoping to come back.”
Ryan Goins hit a homer and drove in two runs for the Blue Jays (67-77), who have won three in a row.
Mark Trumbo homered for the Orioles (71-73), who have lost five in a row.
Estrada (8-8) allowed two runs on four hits and didn’t walk a batter in five innings. His seven strikeouts gave him a career-best 166 for the season.
“I’d prefer to go deeper into the game and not have any strikeouts,” Estrada said. “I wish I could have gone deeper.”
“I thought his stuff was really good tonight,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “They battled him, made him throw a lot of pitches. He had to work for it. To get through five, he was close to 100 pitches, so I yanked him. Those other guys stepped up. The bullpen continues to throw very well.”
Dominic Leone, the fifth Toronto reliever of the night, pitched around a leadoff single in the ninth to earn his first career save.
Baltimore starter Ubaldo Jimenez (5-10) gave up six hits, two walks and three runs while striking out five in five innings.
“That’s the way everything is going against us right now,” Jimenez said. “We’re in a bad streak. Hopefully we’ll get it going tomorrow and get out of it. The splitter was good and the two-seam fastball was good, I was able to keep it down and away.”
The Blue Jays took a 4-2 lead by scoring a run in the sixth inning against reliever Miguel Castro, who hit Miguel Montero with a pitch to start the inning. Teoscar Hernandez hit an infield single to third, and Goins moved the runners up a base with a groundout to second.
Darwin Barney beat out an infield hit on a slow grounder along the first base line that was fielded by Chris Davis. The first baseman threw to second baseman Jonathan Schoop, who could not get his foot on the bag as Montero scored.
Toronto’s Danny Barnes, who pitched a perfect top of the sixth, was replaced by Matt Dermody after walking Trey Mancini to lead off the seventh.
After Davis struck out, Tom Koehler replaced Dermody and retired Trumbo on a groundout to third that moved Mancini to second. Caleb Joseph singled to score Mancini, cutting Toronto’s lead to 4-3.
Carlos Ramirez pitched a perfect eighth for Toronto.
The Blue Jays scored twice in the second inning. Hernandez doubled when Trumbo lost the ball in the twilight, and Hernandez continued to third on the right fielder’s error. He scored on a groundout to second by Goins.
Barney doubled and continued to third on an error by center fielder Adam Jones. Barney scored on a double by Richard Urena. Barney said he woke up with a “bug” and his legs gave out as he staggered and fell before reaching third.
Jimenez had not allowed a run at the Rogers Centre in his previous two starts there, a total of 14 2/3 innings.
“We had two or three swinging bunts and a ball in the twilight that nobody could see,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “You can’t control that, it’s frustrating. Guys are trying, but we were a little snake-bit tonight. I thought the pitchers deserved a little better fate.”
The Orioles scored in the fourth on a double by Manny Machado and a single by Jones.
Goins hit his seventh homer of the season in the fourth to give the Blue Jays a 3-1 lead. Trumbo hit his 23rd homer to lead off the fifth.
NOTES: Orioles C Welington Castillo left the game in the second inning after being hit by a foul tip in the first inning. C Caleb Joseph replaced him. ... Toronto 3B Josh Donaldson (illness) returned to the lineup Monday as the DH after missing the previous three games. He went 0-for-2 with two walks. Kendrys Morales started at first base. ... Blue Jays OF/INF Steve Pearce (lower back stiffness) has improved but was again out of the lineup Monday. He missed all but one inning of the past three games. ... Toronto RHP Roberto Osuna left the team to go to Mexico for the birth of his child. ... Baltimore OF Craig Gentry (broken right finger) has been cleared to pinch-run but not to field or hit. He is expected to be reinstated from the disabled list Tuesday. ... Toronto RHP Joe Biagini (3-10, 5.29 ERA) will oppose Baltimore RHP Dylan Bundy (13-9, 4.12) on Tuesday.