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Morrow delivers as Jays overpower Cards

Morrow delivers as Jays overpower Cards

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TORONTO -- Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston has said all year that pitcher Brandon Morrow has the stuff to be a frontline starter someday -- a pitcher who could one day carry a rotation.

  • 134 wins
  • 118 wins

While the right-handed flamethrower has shown glimpses of his potential brilliance throughout this season, he had yet to put everything together and prove that he could be what Gaston envisioned. And Morrow had yet to live up to the hype that surrounded him when he was selected with the fifth overall pick by the Mariners in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft.

Say no more.

Morrow's performance in Thursday night's 5-0 victory over the Cardinals at Rogers Centre was nothing short of spectacular, and for arguably the first time, he was the complete package. It was a performance Morrow dubbed "the best game I've pitched."

In front of 12,392 fans, the 25-year-old went eight scoreless innings, limiting the Cardinals to only five hits, while striking out eight. What may be the most impressive statistic pertaining to Morrow's outing is that it marked the first time all season he did not walk a batter.

Morrow, who has been plagued by walks (41), especially early in the season, uncharacteristically threw 71 of his season-high 112 pitches for strikes -- a key element to his success.

"Throwing strikes has been working for me," responded Morrow, when asked what pitches were working for him on Thursday. "I think that's been the biggest thing is keeping guys off base via the walk. Once I started doing that, things started to turn around. I'm using my offspeed pitches in the [strike] zone a lot better and everything has kind of come off of that."

Blue Jays catcher Jose Molina, who made his sixth consecutive start behind the plate with Morrow pitching, has played a huge role in helping Morrow find his inner Zen, helping the youngster harness his often overpowering stuff. With Molina catching, Morrow lowered his ERA to 1.89 over 53 1/3 innings this season, relative to 8.81 over 31 2/3 frames with Blue Jays day-to-day catcher John Buck.

"He's been calling great games," Morrow said of Molina. "I think when he calls games throwing a lot of offspeed stuff, it kind of helps to keep me dialed back."

"I'm kind of in that cruise mode," added Morrow on his string of recent games. "I've been able to figure out calm and intensity levels where I'm just kind of cruising, and if I get into a little jam, I can turn it up a little bit or dial it back down."

For Morrow, it was far easier to keep his intensity levels in check, as the Blue Jays hit Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright hard and early.

Toronto outfielder Vernon Wells started the offensive assault with his first of two home runs on the night, a two-run blast with two out in the first inning. Designated hitter Adam Lind, who was bumped from third to fifth in the lineup for the first time all year, followed Wells' lead by going deep immediately after -- his first home run since May 31 in St. Petersburg. It was the seventh time this season the Jays have hit consecutive long balls, upping their Major League-leading home run total to 111.

"I think it's a good way to respond obviously," Wells said about Lind being bumped in the batting order. "He's handling it well and continues to try and get through it. That's the beautiful part about this game -- whenever you think you have it figured out, it hits you right upside the head. He's going to continue to work and we'll get through this together."

The Jays continued to get to Wainwright in the second frame with a Fred Lewis sacrifice fly. Wells was able to add a solo shot, his 18th of the season, in the third to give the Jays a five-run lead.

Wainwright, who entered Thursday's contest having won four of his last five outings, lasted only four innings, his shortest start since Sept. 13, 2008. The tall right-hander was tagged for five runs -- four earned -- surrendering six hits, including all three home runs.

"I didn't make a whole lot of great pitches with anything," Wainwright said.

Fortunately for the Blue Jays, their man did make a lot of great pitches -- a lot of great pitches with absolutely everything he had.

"I think that's the biggest story," Wells said of Morrow's outing. "When he's able to locate and throw strikes, he has as good as stuff as anybody. For me, coming out of Spring Training, it was just a matter if he would be able to harness it. When he does, he's fun to watch and to play behind."

James Hall is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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