It was the most dominating pitching performance by a Blue Jays starter this season, and one of the most dominating in all of baseball. Brandon Morrow simply destroyed the Angels last night.
A complete game, 3-hit shutout, with 8 strikeouts, and – most impressively – zero walks. With the help of two double plays, Morrow faced one over the minimum, only stranded one runner, and only had one man reach second base. He threw only 102 pitches, 75 of those going for strikes. He threw a first pitch strike to 21 of 28 batters, and seemed to get stronger as the game went on.
In short, it was the kind of performance that fans have been expecting from Morrow. It was the kind of performance that the Blue Jays have been expecting from Morrow. After a bit of a slow stat to the season, is it safe to say that Brandon has finally reached his full potential?
I hope so. But we can’t say yes just yet.
After all – we’ve seen this from Morrow before.
We’ve seen him completely befuddle the opposition only to fall flat on his face shortly thereafter. We’ve seen him alternate great games with bad games for far too long. Inconsistency has proven to be his downfall.
It started right away, in his first month as a Jay. On April 19, 2010 he beat KC with a 7 inning, 1 run, 3 hit, 2 walk, 8 strikeout gem, only to follow that up with a 6 walk performance in his next start against Tampa. He finished a good stretch in June by shutting down the Cardinals (8 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 8 K), only to follow that start with a 6 IP, 5 R (3 earned) clunker against the Indians. Of course his best game came in August, the complete game, one-hit, 17 K shutout in Toronto vs. the Rays. He didn’t pitch more than 6 innings the rest of the season.
In 2011, hopes were higher, but results were the same. Nothing screamed “inconsistent” like the stretch of eight starts he made from May 26 to July 4:
May 26 – 7.0 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 2 BB, 5 K
May 31 – 5.0 IP, 6 ER, 9 H, 2 BB, 9 K
June 6 – 6.0 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 3 BB, 5 K
June 11 – 4.1 IP, 9 ER, 10 H, 3 BB, 4 K
June 18 – 6.2 IP, 0 ER, 5 H, 1 BB, 6 K
June 24 – 7.0 IP, 3 ER, 5 H, 1 BB, 9 K
June 29 – 7.0 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 3 BB 10 K
July 4 – 5.0 IP, 4 ER, 5 H, 3 BB, 5 K
Up, down, up, down, repeat. Nothing was more frustrating. He tantalized us with his stuff, taking our breath away. Then when we came to expect it, he punched us in the stomach with control issues and hittable pitches. Even so, a great finish to 2011 set him, and us, up for a big 2012.
After the first three starts, it looks like Morrow has finally taken off. In his fourth start of the season he gave up a leadoff HR in the second inning to Eric Hosmer.
That is the last run he has surrendered – 20.2 scoreless innings have followed. His season ERA is down to 2.38. His season WHIP is down to 0.91. His BB/9 is the lowest it has been ever in his career. And the strikeouts, while also down overall, are starting to creep back up: 12 in his first 4 starts, 17 in his past 2.
All the signs are there, but can he sustain it? To be honest, we don’t need him to sustain this pace. Complete game shutouts are always welcome, but Jays fans will be content with 7 solid innings, night after night. With the schedule getting a bit tougher (the Jays have series ahead against the Rays, Yankees, Rangers, and Red Sox coming up) the competition will be difficult.
But Morrow seems to be getting it – opponents be damned.
Consider me a believer.