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TEX@TOR: Morrow fans 11 over seven solid innings

TORONTO -- Like a five-man relay team, the Blue Jays' pitching staff has simply been passing the baton man-to-man over the past week.

Ricky Romero started it off with a shutout victory on Wednesday before Carlos Villanueva and Brett Cecil added wins of their own behind him. Even rotation new-comer Brad Mills chipped in a quality start in Saturday's loss.

And on Sunday afternoon, it was Brandon Morrow's turn, as the 27-year-old right-hander struck out a season-high 11 batters, helping the Blue Jays to a 7-3 victory over the Rangers before 45,629 at Rogers Centre on a day when the jersey of Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar was retired..

"Everybody's throwing well. It's just one of those things where you pass the baton and you want to keep going," Morrow said. "I think everybody in the rotation has found their stride."

The Blue Jays held the Rangers to three runs or fewer in each contest of this three-game set, which is easier said than done against the second-best hitting ballclub in the Majors.

"We pitched very well this series," manager John Farrell said. "We were able to control the tempo and control the game from the mound. Just a good series -- a good series to win."

The series win is the second in a row -- the first time that has happened since mid-June -- for the Blue Jays, who have ridden some solid pitching to four wins in their last five games.

Morrow allowed just two runs on six hits Sunday to pick up his eighth win and his third in his last four starts. He attributed much of his success to working his overpowering fastball down in the zone.

"I was getting ahead with my fastball early down and away on both sides, then a breaking pitch or offspeed when we needed too and putting them away with my slider," Morrow said. "[The fastball] was kind of my get-ahead pitch all day, and then my slider was there for me."

Morrow was coming off a rough outing against the Orioles on Tuesday, when he lasted just 3 1/3 innings, allowing six earned runs on nine hits.

But for the fifth time this year, Morrow followed up an outing when he allowed four or more runs with a quality start, keeping the Rangers hitters at bay for most of the afternoon.

He motored through his first five innings, allowing just four baserunners while striking out eight. His only damage would come in the sixth, when he surrendered three consecutive two-out hits as the Rangers plated two runs.

"Just the fact that he was able to get strike one on a number of hitters -- that really just opens up the whole at-bat for him," Farrell said. "When he's ahead in the count and they have to protect against multiple pitches, not only is he ahead in the game, but he's in the driver's seat to put hitters away."

Morrow had plenty of support from the offense, including the recently-acquired Colby Rasmus, who made his first real contribution to the team offensively Sunday, going 2-for-4 with two RBIs.

Rasmus, who was acquired Wednesday in a trade with the Cardinals, had started his Blue Jays career 0-for-13 as he struggled with the pressure and scrutiny of playing in a new city.

"You come in here, there's a lot of expectations. And I think that even by his own admission he felt a little tense, a little nervous," Farrell said. "I was glad to see him get his feet underneath him and relax a little bit and just go out and play."

The Blue Jays got on the board early in the first inning, when Edwin Encarnacion worked a full count before lifting a 92-mph heater from Rangers starter C.J. Wilson deep into the seats in left field for a two-run homer.

Toronto would extend its lead in the second after Jose Molina reached second base on a throwing error. He would move to third on an Aaron Hill groundout before scoring when John McDonald dropped a single just in front of Endy Chavez in center field.

Rasmus then opened the third inning with a single, his first hit as a Blue Jay. He advanced to second on an error and third on a wild pitch and eventually scored when Encarnacion grounded into a double play.

The 24-year-old Rasmus was at it again in the fourth, working a full count with runners on second and third before clubbing a double to deep center field to score both runners for his first two RBIs as a member of the Blue Jays.

"I was just trying to hit it hard -- just hit it and run," Rasmus said of the two-out double. "It was a pretty good day. I'm going to soak it up until Tuesday, when we get back out here."

Wilson was credited with all seven runs -- five earned -- in his 3 2/3 innings of work. He allowed seven hits and walked three while striking out two.

It was Wilson's shortest start of the year and his second rough outing in a row.

"I gave up a lot of hits and a lot of balls that were hit hard," Wilson said. "I fell behind in the count and I didn't throw quality pitches. When you do that, good teams are going to hit the ball hard. It was pretty straightforward today."

The Blue Jays also seemed to feed off the energy of the packed house at Rogers Centre with more than 45,000 in attendance to witness the retiring of Alomar's No. 12 before the game.

It was the first Toronto sellout for a game other than a home opener since April 19, 2003, also against the Rangers.

"When [Encarnacion] hit the two-run home run in the first, it seemed to set them off and they were really involved in the game. It was a great environment today," Farrell said. "I think it took everybody in the ballpark back to a time when it was really rolling here. And to feel that electricity was great."

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