ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. - The Toronto Blue Jays found David Price’s weakness.
Facing 97 MPH fastballs from the 6-foot-6 Tampa Bay Rays lefty, it took three innings to make the discovery:
He's weak to the glove side.
In the third, Price fielded a David Cooper comebacker, threw off balance and saw the ball bounce toward second base. Two hitters later, Price grabbed an Eric Thames chopper on the run with the bases loaded and fired toward home plate ... All the way to the backstop.
The two errors led to three unearned runs as Brandon Morrow and the Jays put another dent in Tampa's wild-card coffin with a 5-1 win before 18,093 at Tropicana Field on Friday night.
The loss leaves the Rays 2 1/2 games behind the Boston Red Sox, who were rained out at Yankee Stadium.
Coming off eight scoreless innings against the New York Yankees on Sunday, Morrow put up seven zeros against the Rays, allowing two singles in his 113-pitch (68 strikes) outing.
The Jays came within an out -- Matt Joyce hit a bloop RBI single off Luis Perez -- of handing the Rays their 16th shutout.
IF ON THE MORROW
Morrow fanned nine giving him 196 in 173 1/3 innings, compared to 178 in 146 1/3 innings a year ago ... Morrow, who starts the season finale Wednesday against the Chicago White Sox, didn’t allow a hit to the outfield until Casey Kotchman singled up the middle with one out in the seventh ... “(Morrow) has had two good (starts) in a row,” said catcher J.P. Arencibia. “He had some ups and downs, struggled when he got hit, made some adjustments, you can tell how he has changed.” ... Morrow owns this house. He also owns the Rays. Morrow is 4-3 with a 2.26 in 55 2/3 innings against Tampa, compared to a career 4.64 mark against everyone else ... Joyce reached in the second on an 82-foot dribbler in front of first baseman David Cooper ... Tampa's Desmond Jennings bounced a ball up the middle in the fifth that second baseman Kelly Johnson fielded, stepped on the base for the force and then threw to first. It was the first double-play turned behind Morrow since Aug. 1, 2010, a span of 173 innings ... Morrow plunked Evan Longoria in the ribs with a 94 MPH fastball in the third inning ... Morrow walked two in the first but was helped by B.J. Upton, who struck out swinging at a ball out of the zone.
NEXT YEAR'S ROTATION
A year ago today the Jays were set to enter the off-season with building blocks for a 2011 rotation consisting of Rickey Romero, Brandon Morrow, Brett Cecil and opening-day starter Shaun Marcum (later dealt to Milwaukee for third baseman Brett Lawrie) ... Today? Well, there is Romero, Morrow, Cecil and Henderson Alvarez ... “It’s different, we all know what Morrow can do,” said Romero. “Cecil hasn’t had the year he wanted, Henderson doesn’t walk anyone, pitches to contact and I’d add Dustin McGowan, a power arm who looks like he’s back to where he was before his surgeries” ... Casey Janssen says “I don’t think I’m in the mix.” Janssen made 17 starts for the Jays in 2006 and five in 2009 before suffering a shoulder setback. “I’m more valuable in the bullpen,” said Janssen who suggested the Jays may add an starter for next season “We have Dustin, Kyle Drabek, a deep minor-league system, maybe we can add a free agent like Rich Harden” ... Texas Rangers lefty C.J. Wilson is the only stud starter available on the free agent market this off-season.
NEXT YEAR'S ROTATION II
Jays manager John Farrell said Toronto plans to be “active and proactive this off season in an effort to improve.” Interestingly, when asked to name his starters he listed Cecil fourth, after Romero, Mororow and Alvarez ... “Alvarez has been impressive, seven starts in a row pitching at least six innings,” Farrell told reporters. “Cecil to his credit has turned things in around in the second half. He’s had some hiccups, but he’s a left-hander with 200 innings under his belt.” ... Cecil has pitched 120 1/3 innings in 19 starts with the Jays and 78 2/3 innings in 12 starts at triple-A Las Vegas. He’s 0-6 with a 4.82 in nine big-league starts since Aug. 1 ... On McGowan Farrell said “throw out the numbers, he’s healthy again pitching every fifth day.” ... Kyle Drabek is another arm to consider.
Toronto's Jose Bautista was tagged out in the third returning to second on Johnson’s blooper to centre. Centre fielder Upton bare-handed the ball and fired to second to get Bautista, who went in standing after having rounded the bag. Plate umpire Alfonso Marquez signalled that the third out had been made before Thames crossed the plate, so it was a 3-0 lead rather than a 4-0 lead and the inning was over instead of two men on the bases ... Johnson hit a solo homer, his third dinger since joining Toronto, in the sixth to give the Jays a 5-0 lead.
Farrell raved about shortstop Mike McCoy, who has filled in at the position since regular Yunel Escobar was injured ... “This is the first extended look we’ve had at him,” Farrell said ... “He’s done everything. made plays to his glove side, his back hand. It seems like he has two hits every night and I look up and his average is still at .210.” ... McCoy made a fine play behind second in the third to retire Desmond Jennings and scored two of the Jays' first four runs, reaching on a single and a walk. He also stole his 10th base.
Romero said he has talked to Cecil, explaining his off-season workout during the winter months ... “I’ve talked to (Cecil), it’s the same for everyone. Who expected me to be this good? Then are you going to be better after your rookie year? After your sophomore year? I say just go out and prove people wrong.”
ONE FROM THE ROOM
“Not that my memory’s bad, but I can now hide my own Easter eggs,” said Ron Sandelli, Jays' director of security, jokingly.