Morrow's shaky start erased by late rally
Snider, Bautista lift Jays with ninth-inning RBIs
BALTIMORE -- Brandon Morrow did not have much time to mull over his disastrous debut inning as a member of the Blue Jays' rotation on Friday afternoon. After Orioles starter Brad Bergesen used just four pitches to breeze through the top of the second inning, Morrow bolted off the bench.
Morrow's already-forgettable day nearly became much worse.
"I tripped coming out of the dugout," Morrow said after the Blue Jays pulled out a 7-6 win over the Orioles at Camden Yards. "I almost caught my teeth on the front step. I figured nothing else could go wrong."
The stumble on the steps served as a fitting summation of Morrow's first showing of the season. The right-hander struggled mightily in the opening frame, but recovered and managed to avoid having his outing take a ruinous turn. The Blue Jays' offense did their part as well, piecing together a ninth-inning flurry that helped overcome Morrow's early woes in the second comeback win for the club in as many days.
Toronto's offense started by spotting Morrow three first-inning runs -- one on a sacrifice fly from Lyle Overbay and two more on a double by catcher John Buck. That 3-0 advantage would rapidly vanish in light of Morrow's inability to consistently find the strike zone early on. Buck could not fault Morrow for possibly facing some jitters.
"He was just excited. He was a little erratic," Buck said. "Personally, I think you can just chalk it up to excitement. New team. Opening Day. You even have veterans say that's what it was -- even at the end of their careers. It's something that's just, that special thing kind of gets you sometimes."
Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston agreed.
"I think maybe he was a little bit nervous, too," he said.
The Jays (3-1) traded for Morrow over the winter, sending a pair of players to the Mariners in order to land the pitcher two days before Christmas. Morrow spent his years in Seattle bouncing between starting and relieving, but Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos made it clear that Morrow would be counted on as one of the key pieces in the long-term plans for Toronto's rotation.
Morrow's first pitch of the 2010 season was a ball to Orioles leadoff man Brian Roberts, who quickly drew a walk. Morrow then misfired with a changeup that struck Baltimore's Adam Jones in the back. One walk to Nick Markakis later, and Morrow found himself in a bases-loaded jam with no outs. Miguel Tejada then ripped a pitch into center field for a two-run single.
It looked as though Morrow was on the verge of turning things around with a strikeout to Orioles left fielder Luke Scott for the inning's first out. But the right-hander followed with consecutive walks to Matt Wieters and Nolan Reimold, forcing home another run to tie the game, 3-3. At that point, reliever Shawn Camp began to get loose in the bullpen.
With his 36th pitch of the first inning, Morrow escaped with a double-play groundout. Morrow said he did not spend any time trying to analyze what went wrong when he walked off the field.
"I tried to forget about it the second I stepped back into the dugout," said Morrow, who finished with five strikeouts, five walks and four hits allowed in a no-decision. "It's just one of those things you've got to forget about."
Morrow did a good job at that.
Following the first-inning walk to Reimold, Morrow did not allow a hit to the next 13 hitters he faced. That allowed Toronto's offense to regain the lead, 5-3, including one run on a solo homer from shortstop Alex Gonzalez in the third inning. With a sharp slider and improved fastball command -- a few heaters touched 97 mph on the radar gun -- Morrow found a way to string together five innings.
That allowed Gaston to hold off on turning to his bullpen.
"Cito was getting the bullpen up there after a while [in the first]," Buck said. "Then all of a sudden, [Morrow] going five innings, that was huge."
The Blue Jays needed one more offensive push, though.
In the fifth inning, Markakis sent a pitch from Morrow arcing high above left field, where Blue Jays outfielder Travis Snider turned in the wrong direction while trying to track down the fly ball. Snider's gaffe allowed the ball to drop in for a double and Tejada followed by drilling a pitch from Morrow into the left-field seats for a two-run homer to knot the score, 5-5.
"That was a bad read," Snider said. "That was bad outfielding. I can't make any excuses on that -- just make a better play."
Snider received a chance at redemption, though.
In the ninth inning -- after Baltimore (1-3) claimed a 6-5 lead one inning earlier -- Snider pulled a pitch from Orioles closer Mike Gonzalez to the wall in left-center field. The game-tying double plated Edwin Encarnacion, who drew a walk to lead off the inning. Snider then moved to third base on a sacrifice bunt from John McDonald and scored the decisive run on a sac fly from Bautista.
Without the services of closer Jason Frasor -- given a day off after being used in each of the past three games -- the Blue Jays turned to reliever Kevin Gregg for the save. Gregg set down the Orioles in order to seal the third win in a row for Toronto and the third game the Jays have had decided in the ninth inning this season.
"I'd like to maybe have a little more relaxing day every once in a while," Gaston said with a laugh.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.