Blue Jays finish strong in beating White Sox
Brandon Morrow finished the season on a strong note and joined an elite group of Toronto Blue Jays' pitchers from the past.
Morrow became the fourth pitcher in Toronto history to record 200 strikeouts in a season and a ninth-inning rally propelled the Blue Jays over the Chicago White Sox 3-2 on Wednesday in the season finale.
The 27-year-old right-hander allowed two runs on five hits over six innings of work. He walked five and struck out seven. His strikeout of Tyler Flowers in the fifth inning as No. 200 and he finished the season with 203, fanning four of his last five batters.
''It's something I was always looking to, especially this last game, I knew I needed four,'' said Morrow, who started the day with 196 strikeouts. ''That kind of led to some of the walks early on in the game. I settled myself down and I ended up getting it and a few more. It was a good day.''
Morrow joined Roy Halladay (three times), Rogers Clemens (twice) and A.J. Burnett as the only pitchers in Blue Jays history to reach the 200-strikeout plateau.
''Any time you strike out 200 guys in a season, it demonstrates you've got tremendous stuff,'' said Blue Jays manager John Farrell, a former major league pitcher himself.
''He learned a lot about himself this year, and we're going to need him moving forward to be that pitcher he's shown the last three starts.''
Morrow, who didn't factor in the decision, brought a scoreless streak of 15 innings into the game, but a Gordon Beckham solo homer in the fourth inning halted that streak at 18 2-3 innings.
He posted a 0.86 earned run average over his last three starts - 21 innings pitched - to rebound from a five-start stretch in which Morrow posted a 9.47 ERA. He finished 11-11.
''I kept talking about finishing strong,'' he said. ''These last three outings, it's great to get two wins and three quality starts to finish the year.''
Trailing 2-1 in the ninth inning, the Blue Jays benefited from a wild outing from Chris Sale (2-2), who walked three straight hitters with runners on second and third to force in the tying and go-ahead runs.
The win brought Toronto back up to .500 to finish the season, its first with Farrell at the helm.
Kelly Johnson doubled to start the ninth with Toronto trailing 2-1 and moved to third on David Cooper's single. Colby Rasmus sacrificed Cooper to second before J.P. Arencibia was walked intentionally to load the bases. Sale (2-2) then walked Mark Teahen and Adam Loewen back-to-back, putting the Blue Jays ahead.
''If you hadn't seen the first 161 games of the year, you could really look at this game and epitomize or wrap up our entire season,'' Farrell said.
''We finished an even .500, but it was the character this team has demonstrated all year long. We benefited from some wildness in the ninth inning, and it was enough to hold on.''
NOTES: Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista, who hit 43 homers and could finish as the major league home run league champion in back-to-back seasons, wasn't shy when asked who should be the AL MVP. ''If I couldn't vote for myself, then Miguel Cabrera,'' he said of the Tigers star.'' But if he could vote for himself, would he? ''Wouldn't you?'' Bautista said.