Jays steal one from Pirates

Toronto Blue Jays Brendan Morrow throws to the Pittsburgh Pirates during the first inning of their...

Toronto Blue Jays Brendan Morrow throws to the Pittsburgh Pirates during the first inning of their Interleague MLB baseball game in Toronto, June, 29, 2011. (REUTERS/Mark Blinch)

KEN FIDLIN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:54 PM ET

Brandon Morrow is starting to get that look. It’s the same look that carried him through a 12-start stretch of 2010 when he was as dominant as any pitcher in the American League.

Wednesday night, he overpowered the Pittsburgh Pirates with a seven-inning, four-hit, 10 strikeout performance and was rewarded with a 2-1 come-from-behind victory.

Rookie Eric Thames, playing right field, belted a game-tying homer in the sixth inning and struggling Rajai Davis doubled for the second time in the game and scored on Yunel Escobar’s double in the seventh for the only two runs Toronto would need.

“I think this starts to mirror what (Morrow) did a year ago,” said manager John Farrell. “It was eight or nine or 10 starts before he got on his run and now he seems to be in that same type of groove that he was a year ago.”

Through four innings, the Pirates had one baserunner - Chase d’Arnaud’s single in the fourth - against Morrow, who was economical with his pitches, needing just 51 to get the first 12 outs.

In the fifth, Neil Walker walked to lead off and advanced to third on Lyle Overbay’s single. Walker was cut down at the plate by third baseman Jose Bautista on a grounder hit by Matt Diaz. Ronny Cedeno’s single into centre scored Overbay from second but Diaz was caught in a rundown between second and third when the throw was cut off. Morrow struck out catcher Eric Fryer to stop the damage at one run.

“In the fourth and fifth innings, it seemed like Brandon started to fade a little bit,” said Farrell. “He went through those two innings where he threw nearly 50 pitches but he got a second wind that carried him through.”

Through five innings, Pittsburgh starter Paul Maholm scattered five hits but in the sixth, Thames swatted his first major-league homer leading off to tie the score. Morrow’s evening ended after seven innings and 117 pitches, 66 of them over his last three innings. He gave up just four singles, walked three and struck out 10.

He agrees that he’s settling into a groove similar to the one he enjoyed last season.

“Definitely,” said Morrow. “My fastball command has been my biggest thing. The two-seamer has come around. It’s a change of speed from my four-seamer, gives me a little movement and some ground balls.”

In the Blue Jay seventh, Davis connected for his second double of the night with one out, then scored on Yunel Escobar’s double into centre to put the Jays ahead to stay.

“The first line-drive double maybe allowed (Davis) to relax a bit,” said Farrell.

“More than anything, it was a relaxed approach without the emergency swings we’ve been seeing.”

Welcome Back

Farrell was up to his eyeballs in alligators in a one-run ballgame when Brett Cecil arrived back in the Blue Jay dugout, ending his exile to Las Vegas.

“When he walked into the dugout (Tuesday night), we were in the eighth inning just after a lineout and a double play, and he walked up to me and said ‘Hey, how-ya doin, skip?’ and I was like, well, ‘I’ll get to you in a minute.’ It wasn’t the most opportune time, but he was happy to be here, I knew that.”

“There were a few other things going on at the time, so I apologized to him (Wednesday) if I was a little short with him but I did see a relieved look on his face, one that said he was excited to be back here.”

Cecil, who starts Thursday against the Pirates, was sent to Vegas to work on his fastball, which had lost several miles and hour of velocity since last year, creating a situation where his off-speed pitches were too close in velocity to his fastball. After 12 starts in Triple A, Cecil’s velocity is back up over 90 mph.

Nobody is quite certain why his heater had less pop but Cecil thinks it was due to his off-season program which he started a little earlier last winter. By the time he got to Dunedin, he may have been suffering from a tired arm.

“I started my routine a little earlier in the off-season,” said Cecil. “I’m still young and still trying to figure out the best routine for me to get ready for a season. Starting too early is probably not a good way.

“I think my arm was just a little overworked.”

In the spring and early in the season, Cecil’s fastball was topping out at 85-86 mph, just three or four mph faster than his change and curve. Now with a fastball at 90-92, he gets seven to 10 mph of separation between the fastball and off-speed pitches.

“Just by virtue of a little more velocity, the separation between that and his off-speed pitches should disrupt hitters’ timing,” said Farrell.


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