Yes, you read that correctly. Brandon Morrow threw a no-hitter against the Boston Red Sox on Saturday, and the Blue Jays still lost 7-6. Kind of.
The Jays have now lost four in a row for the first time in 2014. They’re now two games below .500, also a first on the young campaign.
Morrow did not allow hit during his start. But he also walked EIGHT Red Sox. Four of them consecutively in the third inning. All with two outs. That allowed one run to score. He was pulled from the game. Chad Jenkins gave up a grand slam to the first batter he faced. Then another home run to the next batter. Just like that, the Red Sox had six runs on two hits.
Morrow, admittedly, did get squeezed quite a bit by home playe umpire Jeff Kellogg, who had an abysmal game from top to bottom. However, he was not sharp. He couldn’t locate the fastball, or the slider. The splitter was somewhat effective. He will, of course, get another start, but you have to wonder how many more after that. Gregg Zaun said on the broadcast that it’s time to “take the gloves off” in terms of how he’s handled and treated in this rotation.
Shi Davidi wrote that Marcus Stroman is being lined up to potentially replace Dustin McGowan after his next start in Kansas City on Tuesday. Might a similar situation play out with Morrow? There are some starters in AAA who might be able to jump up (Sean Nolin, Liam Hendricks), and in the bullpen (J.A. Happ). It’s very discouraging that Morrow hasn’t been able to take the next step into becoming a dominant pitcher in this league. It was widely believed that the Jays need a successful Morrow in order to have a successful 2014 season. So far, that looks to be accurate.
It’s just becoming annoying and inexcusable that Blue Jays pitchers cannot throw strikes. Perhaps my annoyance comes from it reminding me of the Little League peewee games I used to umpire. When Jenkins induced a ground out to end the 3rd, it was the first ball in play over the course of seven batters. That’s just absolutely ludicrous.
Jenkins pitched admirably out of the pen after driving to Toronto from Buffalo this morning, but the single run he allowed in the 5th inning proved to be the difference. In total, he went 1.2 innings allowing three runs on five hits. After that, the bullpen was perfect, save for a Brett Cecil non-intentional intentional walk of David Ortiz with 2 outs in the 7th. Aaron Loup went an inning and two-thirds, while Cecil, Steve Delabar and Sergio Santos went an inning each. It was quietly a solid bounce-back from the pen after a horrendous week. The main focus will be on Morrow’s struggles, and the offensive comeback falling just short. But you have to tip your cap to those four guys shutting the door and giving the offense a chance. The bullpen’s taken a lot of heat in the last week, and the big three put some water on the fire, for now.
On offense, you have to like the six runs on 13 hits. But just 3-for-13 with RISP, and 11 left on base, are both ugly marks. Some highlights, however:
– Jose Bautista: 3-for-5, home run, double, two runs, 2 RBI. He’s quietly raised his average to .296. The 7 April home runs are nice, too. He trails just Jose Abreu and Albert Pujols for most in the league.
– Johnny McFrank (aka Juan Francisco): 1-for-4, his second mammoth home run in as many days. Also walked, now hitting .333 in his limited action. Making a case to win a bench job when Adam Lind returns (more on that in a bit).
– Dioner Navarro: 3-for-4 with a walk, RBI and run scored. His average is now at .309. Can’t ask for much more out of him.
– Brett Lawrie: 2-for-5. His second multi-hit game of the last four, it appears like he might finally be turning the corner.
But they still have four regulars hitting below .200 (Jose Reyes – who drew his first two walks of the season today – Lawrie, Colby Rasmus, Ryan Goins). So, that sucks.
Now as for that bench. For the second time this week, having only three players on the bench tied their hands. With Bautista DHing, Moises Sierra was the right fielder. When Edwin Encarnacion pinch-hit for him in the 8th, it presented an interesting conundrum. Either move Bautista into the field and lose the DH, or do what John Gibbons did.
He sent Encarnacion to 1B, shifting McFrank to 3B, Lawrie to 2B, and Johnny Diaz to RF. It’s a less-than-ideal scenario to have a “subpar” defence out in the 9th inning. It nearly reared its ugly head, but Edwin was able to scoop a throw in the dirt from McFrank, on a play that Lawrie makes much more easily.
Gibbons essentially managed the team like I would in a video game. And then in the 9th, with Navarro as the tying run on first base, and then second, Josh Thole was the only option to pinch run, without using a pitcher. Yet Thole remained on the bench, despite the fact he has more footspeed. As I mentioned yesterday, with interleague play coming, the Jays need a deeper bench. There’s an outside shot Adam Lind could return when the club heads to Pittsburgh next weekend. If he does, I advocate for Francisco remaining as a bench bat. If Lind isn’t ready, then a guy like Anthony Gose makes some sense. Ability to play outfield, and good speed off the bench for the late innings.
The Blue Jays will look to avoid the sweep for the first time this season tomorrow on R.A. Dickey bobblehead day. Dickey is actually starting, too! Jon Lester is on the hill for the Red Sox, though. So that should be fun.
Pete, Asher and I will also be recording our first podcast of the season! Unfortunately, it will be done before the game, so we won’t have the reaction to the sweep if it happens, which I’m sure would have been juicy. But it should be good regardless, so stay tuned for that.