TORONTO - Toronto Blue Jays hurler Brandon Morrow didn’t take long to erase the ugly memory of his most recent start in Texas.
Now, he can only hope to do the same thing when it comes to the last pitch he threw Wednesday night in a 4-1 victory over the Baltimore Orioles.
On the heels of the worst start of his career last weekend at Rangers Ballpark -- a game where he didn’t make it out of the first inning -- Morrow was cruising along on a three-hitter into the seventh Wednesday when, with one out, Baltimore third baseman Wilson Betemit ripped a liner off Morrow’s right shin.
Morrow crumpled but didn’t go down. Clearly, he was in a great deal of pain.
The right-hander conferred briefly with Jays manager John Farrell and assistant trainer Hap Hudson before he was helped off the field, unable to put any weight on his right leg.
“When he was struck,” said Farrell, “there’s a nerve that runs down into his foot and he couldn’t feel his foot, which at the time was alarming to him. The first thought in his mind was the worst and I think it was for all of us, as direct and hard-hit as that ball was. As he got into the clubhouse, he was able to put a little bit more pressure on it.”
Morrow underwent an immediate X-ray at the Rogers Centre medical centre and the injury was classified on a preliminary basis as a right shin contusion.
“Yeah, it hurt a lot,” said Morrow, who expects to make his next start, as scheduled, against the Chicago White Sox in six days.
“My foot was numb and it felt like it was swelling up. Luckily, it hit on the muscle on the side of my shin. An inch or inch-and-a-half over and it could have been a different story.”
Morrow’s immediate thought was of Tampa pitcher Jeff Niemann, whose leg was fractured by an Adam Lind liner two weeks ago.
“That’s what I was thinking on the way off (the field),” said Morrow. “It hurt a lot but it’s feeling a lot better. I think just the fact the X-rays came back negative make it feel better.”
The injury ended what had been a very important comeback start for Morrow. He worked 6.1 innings, allowed just four hits -- all singles -- two walks and one earned run while striking out eight, allaying any fears that something was wrong following his outing in Arlington where he gave up six runs and got only two outs last Friday. Relievers Carlos Villanueva, Francisco Cordero and Casey Janssen finished things off without incident.
“I came into the game with a little chip on my shoulder after last time,” said Morrow. “And of course, we needed this game to sweep them and get back in the race. Now we’re just two games back. That was a big series for us.”
Morrow’s teammates supported him with a nine-hit attack that included four solo home runs off Baltimore starter and loser Jason Hammel, one each in the second, third, fourth and fifth innings.
“Four swings of the bat were the difference,” said Farrell. “Four fastballs on the plate. Just an overall clean game.”
Farrell wasn’t at all surprised by his team’s revival after a one-win road trip to Tampa Bay and Texas.
“This is a team that has been very resilient,” he said. “They’ve been able to separate from what took place the day before or the series before. We can’t change the record on the road trip. We put it behind us and put together three very good ballgames.”
The Orioles grabbed a second-inning lead on a one-out walk issued to Mark Reynolds, a single by Wilson Betemit and an RBI single by Ryan Flaherty. It was the only inning the Orioles got a runner beyond first base.
The Jays then greeted Hammel with three consecutive leadoff home runs in the second, third and fourth innings.
Edwin Encarnacion cancelled that 1-0 lead with a homer, his 17th of the season, in the bottom of the second, a majestic shot that landed in the Blue Jay bullpen.
Leading off the third for Toronto, Rajai Davis squared to bunt and ended up on the seat of his pants as Hammel came up and in with a fastball. Davis picked himself up and launched the next pitch he saw over the 375-foot sign in left-centre field for his third homer to give the Jays a 2-1 lead.
In the fourth, leadoff man Brett Lawrie looked at ball one, swung and missed at a breaking pitch outside, then belted the next offering over the wall in dead-centre for his fourth home run of the season.
The Jays homered again in the fifth, but this time it was second man up, Colby Rasmus, who took Hammel over the wall for his sixth homer.
In the seventh inning, Morrow fanned Mark Reynolds for the second time in the game, then faced Betemit, who lashed the first pitch of the at-bat right back at Morrow. The ball struck Morrow on the side of his right shin, just above the ankle and skittered away for a single.
After the game, left-hander Aaron Laffey was returned to triple-A Las Vegas. A corresponding addition to the 25-man roster will be made Friday. The Jays gave no indication what that move would be, though Vlad Guerrero continues to impress in his audition at Dunedin.