Blue Jays starter Brandon Morrow had it working last night. Well, at least through three innings. He had looked every bit as good as he can when he’s on, and this is a guy who last year threw a one-hit, 17-strikeout shutout against the Rays.
The wheels began to fall off in the fourth when he walked Miguel Cabrera after Brennan Boesch reached on a strikeout/wild pitch. After getting ahead of Victor Martinez 1-2, he left a fastball up and VMart crunched it off the centerfield wall. A single scored another run. A seven-pitch at bat from Jhonny Perlata resulted in the first out of the inning, a smash that was caught at shortstop. Then a walk to Alex Avila loaded the bases and just like that, Morrow was yanked from the game.
It’s easy to say today that Jays manager John Farrell made the wrong move in lifting his starter after just 71 pitches. Considering how well he had pitched coming into the inning, and his ability to generate the strikeout (which is exactly what he needed with the sacks drunk and one out), I would have thought they would have left him out there. The game was still tied at 2-2 at that point and it was only the fourth inning. Couple that with Tigers hurler Max Scherzer not being sharp to that point and you would have thought that Morrow’s rope would be a bit longer.
We know what happened next: Shawn Camp came in with a nasty slider that made quick work of Ryan Raburn, so far so good for Farrell and the Jays. But Camp, like any pitcher who falls in love with his breaking ball, made a couple of mistakes pretty quickly after that. He hung a slider to Austin Jackson that cleared the bases for a double, then he left another slider up in the zone to Ramon Santiago, resulting in a second straight double. Boesch then hit a rocket, but it was snared for the final out of a six-run inning. The damage was done and for all intents and purposes, so was the ballgame.
Now, I don’t follow the Jays regularly. I don’t know the back story here at all. Maybe Morrow was a little under the weather, maybe he’s been nursing some soreness, maybe Farrell was planning on bringing him back on short rest for his next start. I don’t know. But assuming that none of the above are true, the move to pull Morrow seemed awfully reactionary.
Now, once the bases were clear, Camp was very effective through the next two innings, but obviously he was pitching down four runs instead of tied. Camp came into the game with a sub-2.00 ERA and according to the numbers, had been one of Toronto’s better relievers this season. Still, when Morrow is your number two starter, shouldn’t he get a little more rope? Farrell is a former pitcher and a former pitching coach, this would lead me to think that he, having been there himself, would allow his starter to work himself out of trouble.
The Globe and Mail has more on this story:
“I didn’t want to come out,” Morrow said afterwards. “I would have like the chance to try to work my way out of it.”
“The game’s tied at that point and they’ve got the nine and one hitters coming up, both right-handers,” said Morrow, who said he felt fine physically. “I think that’s a pretty strong position for me.”
Farrell, for his part, said the move was precautionary:
“So as his velocity dropped I also saw his arm slot dropping.”
Not want to risk an injury, Farrell said he made the call to take Morrow from the game and it was a decision that the right hander clearly didn’t appreciate.
“I’m sure he wasn’t pleased to come out of the game in the fourth inning,” Farrell said. “He’s a competitor.”
The Tigers took advantage of Morrow’s poor location and decreasing velocity in loading the bases. Then they took advantage of Camp’s two hanging sliders to bring home the final four runs of the inning. Credit has to go to the hitters for making Jays pitchers pay for their mistakes, as it doesn’t always happen like that.
In a game where both starters were off their games, it became a battle of the bullpens and that isn’t a battle the Tigers have won very often this year. Camp ushered home three inherited runners, plus one of his own, then Octavio Dotel got lit up like a pinball machine to the tune of four runs in the seventh. Meanwhile, Al Alburquerque dazzled the 13 fans in attendance with his four strikeouts over two hitless innings to assure the Tigers win.
Even Rayn Perry, who could hit water if had fallen out of a boat last night couldn’t blow the game, try as he might. Perry hadn’t pitched in seven days, that’s the excuse Jim Leyland gave for Perry performance last night. He walked the bases loaded, throwing only one strike in the process, then finally came in to the zone only to see Corey Patterson launch a two-run double (the Tigers threw the third runner out at the plate). It got bad enough that Jose Valverde had to make an appearance in a game he had no business being in.
But in order to be a successful ballclub, you have to win games in a variety of fashions. The Tigers took three of four from the Jays in Toronto after taking three of four from the Yankees at home. They’ve done it with a suddenly explosive offense, some strong starting pitching, and last night, by taking advantage of a young manager pulling his starter too soon.