Watch out, American League. Toronto Blue Jays manager John Farrell believes pitcher Brandon Morrow is ready to hit his stride.
Morrow pitched six innings, Edwin Encarnacion hit a grand slam and Toronto beat the Seattle Mariners 7-0 on Saturday, snapping a four-game losing streak.
With his fastball and slider both working, Morrow (2-1) improved to 3-0 with a 1.89 ERA in three starts against the team that drafted him fifth overall in 2006.
”Today I had my good stuff so we went with what was working,” Morrow said.
The right-hander allowed five hits, walked none and struck out a season-high nine.
”(Morrow’s) slider is 89-90,” Mariners shortstop Brendan Ryan said. ”It’s one of the harder sliders you’re going to see. When he throws it where he wants to, he pretty much gets the result he wants. That’s what you saw with a lot of the right-handed strikeouts.”
Morrow set down 10 straight batters after Kyle Seager’s leadoff double in the second inning, a streak that ended when Michael Saunders hit a one-out double in the fifth. Miguel Olivo reached when Kelly Johnson dropped an infield popup, with Saunders taking third on the play, but Morrow escaped by striking out Ryan and getting Chone Figgins to ground out.
Seager and Ichiro Suzuki singled off Morrow in the sixth, but he ended his outing by striking out Jesus Montero on a 97 mph fastball.
Winless in his first three starts this season, Morrow beat Kansas City his last time out, giving up one run in 6 2-3 innings.
”As we’ve seen the last two outings, the late action to his slider particularly, and the power to his fastball, has increased,” Farrell said. ”That’s not uncommon for a power pitcher. You’re going to see them four weeks into the season really hit stride and that’s what has taken place with Brandon.”
Jason Frasor, Darren Oliver and Carlos Villanueva each worked one inning of relief as Toronto got its first shutout of the season.
Encarnacion went 2 for 3 with a double and a sacrifice fly, matching his career-high with five RBIs. Encarnacion’s first-pitch drive to right off Hisashi Iwakuma in the eighth was his team-leading sixth home run and his fourth career grand slam.
Toronto scored three runs in the third against Mariners right-hander Kevin Millwood. Yunel Escobar singled and went to third on Johnson’s base hit, then scored when Seager couldn’t handle Jose Bautista’s hard grounder to third.
”Tough play, I’m not going to fault a guy for that,” Millwood said. ”That ball was hit hard and you never know what it’s going to do on this turf.”
Adam Lind followed with a ground-rule double to left and Encarnacion capped the rally with a sacrifice fly.
Millwood (0-2) lost his second straight start, allowing three runs, one earned, and seven hits in a season-high seven innings. He walked two and struck out four.
The defeat dropped Millwood to 2-8 with a 4.83 ERA in 13 career starts against the Blue Jays. He’s 1-6 in nine starts at Rogers Centre, and has not won in Toronto since 2006.
As with Millwood, wins against Toronto have been hard to come by for the Mariners, who have lost nine of 11 at Rogers Centre and 13 of their past 19 overall against the Blue Jays.
Notes: Morrow was traded to Toronto in December 2009 for RHP Brandon League and OF Johermyn Chavez. … Lind’s third-inning double snapped an 0-for-16 slump against Millwood and was his first extra-base hit since he doubled in a 9-5 win at Kansas City on April 21. … An MRI of Blue Jays OF Travis Snider’s injured right wrist was negative, but he’s expected to miss the next seven days to rest after jamming his wrist on a play in the outfield Thursday for Triple-A Las Vegas. … Seattle LHP Jason Vargas (3-1) faces Toronto RHP Henderson Alvarez (0-2) in Sunday’s series finale.