Monday, August 09, 2010


When You're Hot, You're Hot!

Last Sunday, Brandon Morrow was not just hot. He was on fire. He stood on the mound at the Rogers Centre in Toronto and threw 137 pitches against the Tampa Bay Rays, giving up just one hit.

With two out in the ninth inning, Ben Zobrist stood on first base, after receiving a pass from Morrow. Evan Longoria, a strong right-handed batter was at the plate. Consequently, the Blue Jays second baseman, Aaron Hill, was positioned closer to second base than he would have been, had there been no base runners. He would cover second base in case a ground ball was hit to the left side of the infield, hopefully to start a double play. (Logical) He would cover second base in case of a steal attempt. (Also logical) In baseball lingo, he was “shading” toward second base.

Longoria smacked a fastball that was on the outside part of the plate. The ball spun off the end of the bat, between second and first, just out of Hill’s reach. Hill stretched for the ball as far as he possibly could, but the ball glanced off his glove and trickled into right field. The official scorer, Dave Perkins, immediately scored it as a hit, ending Morrow’s valiant attempt at a coveted “no hitter”.

Morrow struck out Dan Johnson to end the game, his seventeenth in the game. The only other Blue Jay to strike out more batters in a game was Roger Clemens. That record, of course, has an asterisk beside it, as it occurred during the time that Clemens may have been experimenting with “performance enhancing substances”.

Morrow came close to throwing a no-hitter in his first start as a major league baseball player. He held the New York Yankees hitless through seven and two-thirds innings, striking out nine. He was with the Seattle Mariners at that time, and came over to the Jays last December in an exchange for Brandon League.

More than twenty years ago, in late September, we sat in the 500 section of the SkyDome and watched Dave Stieb work his magic against the New York Yankees. As he moved into the latter stages of the game, his velocity increased. He became even more energized as he approached the end of the game. With two out in the ninth, Stieb stormed around the mound, anticipating his first no-hitter.

There was an electric hush prior to every pitch. Roberto Kelly fouled off a couple of pitches, then smacked a sharp double to spoil Stieb’s effort. Later in his career, Stieb penned a book entitled “Tomorrow I’ll be perfect.” In fact, he remains the only Blue Jay ever to throw a no hit game.

In their somewhat unexpected sweep of the Rays, the Jays also got a remarkable performance from Jonathan Paul Arencibia. “J.P.” had been called up to replace John Buck, on the short-term disabled list. In his first at bat ever in the Major leagues, he set himself into the batter’s box, preparing for the first pitch. He drove it over the fence to the delight of the Toronto faithful.

He finished the afternoon with four hits, another round-tripper, and a double as well. A truly amazing way to start a major league career.

He hit .330 over his college career at the University of Tennessee, and was a first round draft choice by the Blue Jays in 2007. In 2004, he hit 17 home runs for his high school in Miami, Florida, Westminster Christian High. It tied a record set by another Major League baseball player, Alex Rodriguez.

Morrow is 26 years old, Arencibia 24. They both have years ahead of them to keep the fans in the seats at the Rogers Centre. A tip of the old baseball cap to the Jays’ scouting staff, after that weekend.

The Red Sox invade Toronto for three games this week. The Yankees and Tigers are slated to face the Jays at the Rogers Centre to close out the month. Still plenty of great seats available.

James Hurst
August 9, 2010

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