April 18, 2012
Rays clobber Jays 12-2
By Mike Rutsey, QMI Agency
TORONTO - They got to Brandon Morrow early and they got to him often.
With no command of his fastball, save for firing it letter high over the middle of the plate, Morrow was defenceless Wednesday night against the Tampa Bay Rays.
It was the second consecutive start for Morrow that he didn’t have his ‘A’ game and this one was his poorest effort of the three he has produced this season.
A two-run home run clubbed by Ben Zobrist in the opening inning set the tone for what his night would be like and when it was over it was the Rays that had secured a 12-2 laugher.
Six of those runs came against Morrow while reliever Carlos Villanueva — who hasn’t seen action since the third game of the season in Cleveland — was roasted for six runs in the ninth including a grand slam by Luke Scott.
In the lonely Jays clubhouse after the game, Morrow was a disconsolate figure.
“I wasn’t very good with my fastball at all,” Morrow started off. “Poor command and I thought it was flat in the zone and it found a lot of barrels.”
Morrow lasted six innings logging just one 1-2-3 inning. Over the others he allowed the six runs on eight hits and three walks and surrendered three home runs to match his career high.
“I tried a number of times to get my curveball over but that wasn’t working for me,” Morrow continued. “I had a decent changeup but when you have poor fastball command like that things aren’t going to go well.”
Throughout the spring and in his first start Morrow excelled at keeping his fastball down in the zone and mixing in his secondary pitches. In his last two starts, though, the fastball has crept up and things have started to go off the rails.
“Obviously I’m going to continue to work on what I’ve been working on,” he said of what his side session will focus on. “Keeping it down in the zone and on the corners tonight was pretty poor.”
The Rays, sniffing blood, compounded Morrow’s problems by jumping on him early and not allowing him to find a groove with his secondary stuff.
Left fielder Matt Joyce was a constant irritant. He doubled and scored in his first two at-bats then slugged the first of two solo shots the Rays would strike in the sixth.
“He got behind a few guys and when he missed up, they didn’t miss it,” Jays catcher Jeff Mathis said of Morrow. “They weren’t missing his mistakes.”
The rubber game in the series goes Thursday with Henderson Alvarez starting for the Jays.
There wasn’t much to like from the Jays this day. Offensively they couldn’t bunch their hits — they managed 12 — stranded 11 runners on base and were just 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position.
Mathis provided the only fireworks for the Jays with his solo shot off starter David Price in the second.
“We got some hits but they were scattered throughout and we didn’t have the ability to bunch anything together,” manager John Farrell said.
Getting Morrow back on the beam is now a top priority. This is the season he was expected to make his great leap forward and become a solid 1A to No. 1 starter Ricky Romero.
Three starts in Morrow is hardly a train wreck but he is still looking for his first win and trending in the wrong direction.
Morrow has the great arm and terrific stuff and it’s just a matter of harnessing that ability.
The Jays thought they had him on the right track this spring but in tight spots, when push comes to shove, old habits creep back in and that may be where Morrow finds himself now.
It’s up to Morrow and the Jays to reverse that course.
STAYS WITH LIND
Manager John Farrell doesn’t platoon the left-handed hitting Lind but he usually sits him down against some of the tougher lefties.
Despite the fact there are few left-handers tougher than Price, Lind was in the lineup Wednesday.
Lind, though, seems to be able to raise his game when going against the Rays. In 73 prior games, the first baseman has posted an OPS of .846 with 16 home runs. The 16 homers, meanwhile, are the most that he has hit vs. any team in the league.
In Tuesday’s game, Lind was 3-for-4 with a two-run home run and three RBIs. All three of his hits were to the opposite field, which is a sign that Lind is seeing the ball well. During spring training Lind worked on not chasing pitches out of the strike zone, to display controlled aggression within the zone and he’s carried that into the season.
“He demonstrated that (ability) in spring training where he took a number of borderline pitches. He’s made a conscious effort and done a good job with it,” Farrell said. “Every year we meet with every player and we outline some things that we’d like to make some adjustments with and that was one of them with Adam.”
Lind, though, had no luck against Price going 0-for-3.