Tampa 12 Toronto 2
TORONTO — Brandon Morrow won’t be haunting the Tampa Bay Rays anymore.
A group of Rays who were stumped by Morrow in the past ganged up on the Toronto Blue Jays starter for three home runs and six runs in six innings on their way to 12-2 romp Wednesday.
Matt Joyce, who was 2-for-14 in his career before the game against Morrow, hit two doubles and a home run against the right hander. Ben Zobrist, who entered the game 3-for-21 in his career against Morrow, started the scoring with a two-run homer in the first.
Sean Rodriguez also homered against Morrow, and by the time Luke Scott hit his third career grand slam in Tampa Bays’ six-run ninth against reliever Carlos Villanueva the issue was well resolved.
“I wasn’t very good with my fastball at all, poor command and I thought it was flat in the zone,” Morrow said. “And it found a lot of bats.”
Morrow (0-1) entered the game with a 4-2 record and a 2.25 earned-run average against the Rays in his past six starts. He had held them to a .148 batting average and had averaged 11 strikeouts per nine innings against them. He nearly had a no-hitter against them in August 2010.
But Wednesday was different. Morrow allowed eight hits and three walks while striking out two.
“He had my number,” Joyce said of his past failures against Morrow. “He and Ricky Romero really had my number the last few times. Really, every time I’ve faced them. I really tried to gather as much information as I could the last two days and have a better approach. And it worked out.”
Blue Jays’ shortstop Yunel Escobar equalled his career-best with four hits, all singles.
Catcher Jeff Mathis homered for the Blue Jays (6-5) against left-hander David Price (2-1) who allowed eight hits, two walks and two runs with three strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings to earn the victory.
Price improved his record to 10-2 against the Blue Jays and is 4-0 at Rogers Centre.
The teams play the rubber match of the three-game series on Thursday.
“Tonight, Brandon had powerful stuff,” said Blue Jays manager John Farrell. “When he made a mistake out over the plate, he wasn’t able to get away with too many mistakes. With first-pitch fastballs they found their way back to the middle and were squared up for extra-bases, particularly with the way Joyce swung the bat tonight.”
Rays’ manager Joe Maddon moved Zobrist to the second spot in his lineup ahead of Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria for the game because of his ability to get on base. Despite a .216 batting average entering Wednesday, Zobrist had a .370 on-base percentage.
The move looked good in the first inning when Zobrist put the Rays into a 2-0 lead when his second homer of the season followed Desmond Jennings’ leadoff single.
The Blue Jays countered with a run in the first with Jose Bautista’s single scoring Escobar, who led off with a single.
A double by Joyce and a sacrifice fly by Rodriguez restored Tampa Bay’s two-run lead but only until Mathis hit his first homer as a Blue Jay with two out and the bases empty in the bottom of the second.
Joyce doubled for the second time of the game with two out in the fourth and scored on a single by former Blue Jays catcher Jose Molina. After giving up two walks to load the bases, Morrow retired Zobrist on a grounder to end the inning.
Morrow’s night ended after the sixth inning in which he allowed solo home runs to Joyce, his third of the season, and Rodriguez, his first.
“He was up in the zone a little bit more tonight than the first outing over in Cleveland,” Farrell said referring to his first start of the season when he allowed one hit in seven innings with no decision. “Again, fly balls in this ballpark can be a dangerous combination.
“When he went to some secondary stuff, he would fall behind the count at times and they would get a fastball at some point in the count and when they did, it kind of found its way back to the middle of the plate.”
Villanueva allowed six runs in the ninth that started when he hit Molina with a pitch. An error by third baseman Brett Lawrie added to the problems. Carlos Pena walked to force in a run, Evan Longoria singled in a run and Scott homered.