TORONTO -- One bad inning was all it took to send Brandon Morrow to his third loss in three games.
Toronto's right-hander momentarily lost his control during the third, and had trouble putting guys away with his slider. He quickly turned things around, but when matched up against Ervin Santana, the recovery proved to be too little too late.
Morrow surrendered five runs while Vernon Wells homered in his return to Toronto, as the Blue Jays dropped their series opener to the Angels, 5-1, on Friday night.
"It was the one inning where he lost command of the strike zone," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said. "Other than that he had powerful stuff.
"You look at the four hits given up throughout the course of the ballgame, he kept the game in check with the exception of the one inning."
Morrow hasn't had much luck in the win column recently, but his actual performance on the mound has been another story entirely. The 26-year-old entered the game with a 3.58 ERA in his past 10 starts while limiting opposing hitters to a .214 average over that span.
The California native had quality starts in eight of his last 12 outings and a total of 14 on the season. But early on, things proved to be much harder against the Angels.
The trouble began when Wells walked to the plate for the first time as an opposing player at Rogers Centre. He received a standing ovation from the 24,731 fans in attendance and graciously tipped his helmet.
Wells then stepped into the batter's box and promptly sent the first pitch he saw from Morrow over the wall in left-center field. Wells' 17th blast of the season made him the first player since Jeff Kent in 1997 to homer on the first pitch against a team he played for the previous year.
"It's a moment I'll never forget," Wells said. "I'm going to enjoy every time I come back here. This city has meant so much to me and it was very touching to see the reaction I got when I went to the plate. Thanks to the fans."
Morrow's woes began in earnest the following frame in part because of some shoddy defence. Angels third baseman Alberto Callaspo recorded an RBI single and advanced to second on a throwing error by right fielder Jose Bautista.
Two batters later, Torii Hunter hit an opposite-field double to plate two more runs. Morrow then settled into a groove by retiring seven of the next eight batters he faced, but his club's defensive miscues continued in the sixth.
Hunter led off the inning with an infield popup. Both Adam Lind and Brett Lawrie lost sight of the ball, which left Morrow as the only person who could potentially make a play. He tried to track the ball down, but instead had it bounce off his glove for an error to allow Hunter to reach base.
Russell Branyan followed with a double to the corner in right field. Hunter was going to be held at third until Bautista's throw bounced off the glove of Aaron Hill. Bautista was charged with his second throwing error of the game and Hunter came in to score.
Toronto has now made five errors in its past two games and the lack of execution doesn't exactly sit well with Farrell.
"We've misplayed some balls, there's no question about it," Farrell said. "We've got to play better on defence. That's one thing that we do have the ability to control.
"Are they going to happen? Yeah, they are, but when they come in bunches they start to look glaring."
Morrow allowed five runs -- four earned -- on four hits and four walks in seven innings. It was just the sixth time this season he surrendered more than three runs in a start and it was the first time he lost to a team other than Baltimore since June 11 against the Red Sox.
"I didn't have a very good slider early," said Morrow, who is now 8-7 with a 4.55 ERA this year. "That was the pitch Vernon hit out ... I just couldn't put a guy away when I needed to there, and Hunter came with a big double. With a guy that hot on the mound on the other side, that was pretty much the ballgame right there."
Santana continued his dominance over the Blue Jays by allowing just one run en route to the 13th complete game of his career.
Through eight innings, Santana had faced just one batter over the minimum and allowed just one man to reach scoring position. The Dominican native was on the verge of recording his second shutout of the year until Eric Thames hit a solo home run in the ninth.
Santana is now 4-1 with a 1.71 ERA in five starts against Toronto since the start of 2010. He also has allowed one run or less in each of his last five starts this year and has won six consecutive decisions.
It was pretty easy for Farrell to describe after the game why Santana has been so effective lately.
"No pitches in the middle of the plate," Farrell said. "The one time there was and Thames gets into a decent hitting count, and puts a good swing on the pitch.
"But he pitched ahead in the count and never sat on one side of the plate. He threw strikes to the edge both in and away from righties and lefties."
The Blue Jays have now lost six of their past nine games and based on their recent performance, appear to be scuffling through a rough patch during the long month of August.
Farrell said after the game he wouldn't be afraid to mix things up for Saturday's afternoon affair.
"I don't know if it's necessarily the dog days of August, but we'll have some fresh legs out there tomorrow," Farrell said. "The lineup is not set yet, but we'll make a couple of adjustments to give a couple of guys a blow."
Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB b>. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.