TORONTO - It was over early and went on far too late.
The game officially clocked in at three hours and sixteen minutes, but the Toronto Blue Jays' fiasco against the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday was over two seconds after it started.
That was the length of time it took for Toronto starter Brandon Morrow’s first pitch to clear the fence in left field after it hit the middle of Desmond Jennings’ bat. From that point on it was strictly downhill all the way for the Jays, who were humbled 12-0 at the Rogers Centre.
Before it was over the Jays would strike out 18 times, tying the club record for most strikeouts in a nine-inning game. Leading the way was newly-acquired Kelly Johnson, who struck out four times to earn the Golden Sombrero.
On the pitching side, Toronto issued nine walks and hit Casey Kotchman twice.
It was a one-sided game dominated by Tampa starter David Price, who set a Rays franchise record with 14 strikeouts.
Price blanked the Jays on three singles over seven innings and logged at least two strikeouts every inning, save for the sixth where he didn’t record any.
The lone Jays batter not to whiff this day was leadoff hitter Mike McCoy who had three walks.
The Jays have now lost four in a row and with three consecutive losses to Tampa — the four-game series concludes Monday — fell to 4-10 vs. the Rays on the season.
After being pounded for six runs off 11 hits in 4 2/3 innings by the Kansas City Royals in his previous start, Morrow was looking for better results this time around.
Jennings, the Rays' leadoff hitter, ruined that plan in a nanosecond as he drilled the first pitch from Morrow into the Blue Jays bullpen.
Morrow has the best pure stuff on the Jays pitching staff by far, but in his past two starts and throughout August he’s done a pretty good impersonation of New York Yankees punching bag A.J. Burnett.
“Obviously I haven’t been very good the last couple of times and probably this whole month (where he has gone 1-4),” said Morrow, now 9-9 on the season. “You’ve got to make changes when things aren’t going well, so I got a chance to work on some things.”
Jays manager John Farrell was absent for the third consecutive game as he is recovering from a bout with pneumonia. Interim manager Don Wakamatsu said that Farrell is still a little weak.
“We’re going to be real cautious with it,” Wakamatsu said. “I know he wants to get back but we want to make sure he’s OK.”
The Jays these days are anything but.
In the second, with two out and one on, Morrow was one strike away from a scoreless inning. But on a 1-2 pitch to John Jaso, he went with a breaking ball and the Rays catcher squirted one up the third-base line and out of reach of Brett Lawrie for an RBI single.
At that point, Morrow couldn’t stop the bleeding.
Three pitches later, Sean Rodriguez squared up an inside fastball and drilled it into the seats in left for a two-run shot. That brought Jennings to the plate for his second at-bat.
This time it took him three pitches from Morrow before launching one over the wall, marking the first multi-homer game of the impressive rookie’s career.
“I was having trouble getting my fastball to the outside edge to right-handed hitters,” Morrow said of the inning. “Everything just kept kind of going back, running back over the plate.
“Other than the second inning (where he gave up four runs and two home runs), I thought I pitched pretty well. I had a chance to work on some things, threw a lot of good changeups.”
Morrow, meanwhile, has given up five homers in his past two starts.
“That hurts but only one of them for multiple runs, the others have been solo shots so that isn’t going to kill you,” he said. “Today they were on balls where I missed my spot.”
Getting back on track has proved to be elusive for Morrow this month.
“I’ve tried to work on a couple of things and it seems that they just kind of go against me once I get into games,” he said. “I’ve had maybe the wrong mindset in-between to change things up and (I’m) not really taking that into the game.”
The wires that hold up the screen behind home plate at the Rogers Centre rarely come into play, but in the second inning, the Rays batter Matt Joyce fouled a ball that looked like it would land in front of the Jays dugout. Catcher J.P. Arencibia got to the ball in plenty of time, but the ball, on its way down, struck one of the wires and caromed into the Jays dugout. Joyce would go on to strike out ... In the sixth, Lawrie’s instincts failed him. Rodriguez was running from first on a 3-2 pitch to Jennings. Lawrie looked to second after fielding the slow chopper, and when he realized he was late and had no play there, was late in his throw to first, allowing Jennings to reach with an infield single ... In the seventh, with one out and runners at first and second, Joyce singled to right. Jays right fielder Jose Bautista came in and, perhaps peeking at the runner at third, had the ball carom off his glove for an error as the run scored and the runners moved up.