Blue Jays Throwback: Brandon Morrow’s one-hitter
By Cam Lewis3 months ago
August 8, 2010 — Brandon Morrow puts together arguably the greatest pitching performance in Blue Jays history.
The Seattle Mariners selected Morrow with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2006 MLB draft, ahead of names like Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw who are shoo-ins to eventually be inducted into the Hall of Fame. While Morrow didn’t have a career of that calibre, he was right up there with those two in terms of ability.
Blue Jays fans saw firsthand just how excellent Morrow could be after the Mariners traded him to Toronto in exchange for reliever Brandon League and prospect Johermyn Chavez ahead of the 2010 season. His debut season with the Blue Jays got off to a rocky start but Morrow settled in and hurled some gems that demonstrated his ace upside.
The highlight of Morrow’s season came in early August against the American League East-leading Tampa Bay Rays. Morrow struck out Ben Zobrist, Carl Crawford, and Evan Longoria in the first inning and fans at the Rogers Centre knew something special was on the horizon.
Morrow walked Dan Johnson on four pitches to start the second inning but settled right back in and mowed down the next three batters on eight pitches. He cruised through the Rays and their formidable lineup with ease, getting batters to whiff through his breaking and off-speed pitches and roll over on his fastballs.
In the seventh inning, Morrow struck out Crawford and Longoria but Johnson reached on an error. Morrow then struck out Matt Joyce on three pitches to end the inning. In the eighth, he struck out John Jaso and B.J. Upton before getting Willy Aybar to fly out to put him one inning from immortality.
The Blue Jays were clinging to a 1-0 lead as Morrow came out for the ninth inning. He got Jason Bartlett to fly out for the first out of the inning, walked Zobrist to put the tying run on base, and then got Crawford to line out for the second out. Evan Longoria, who was selected two spots above Morrow in his draft year, stepped to the plate as the final batter between the right-hander and a no-hitter.
With a 1-1 count, Longoria got his bat on a fastball from Morrow and managed to poke the ball past a diving Aaron Hill and into right field. Despite having runners on first and third and a one-run lead, manager Cito Gaston opted to let Morrow finish what he started. He got Johnston to strike out on an eight-pitch at-bat to end the game.
Morrow’s final line: Nine innings pitched, no runs, one hit, two walks, and seventeen strikeouts. An absolute masterclass.
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Many will say that Dave Stieb’s no-hitter in 1990 was the best pitching performance by a Blue Jay of all-time while others might also argue that Roger Clemens striking out 18 batters in a shutout victory in 1998 was more impressive.
But in terms of Game Score, Morrow’s one-hitter ranks at the top of the list of any start by a Blue Jay. His performance scored 101, making Morrow’s gem one of just sixteen times a pitcher has ever achieved a game score of 100 or higher in a nine-inning game.
Morrow put together what appeared to be a breakout season a couple of years later in 2012 with a sparkling 2.96 ERA over 21 starts. Unfortunately, injuries kept him from building on that season, as he was limited to just 87 2/3 innings between 2013 and 2014.
Having to navigate Type 1 Diabetes further added to the uphill battle for Morrow as a starting pitcher. He left the Blue Jays following the 2014 season and spent the next two years with the San Diego Padres on a minor-league contract. Morrow’s 2015 season was derailed due to injury and the Padres converted him into a reliever in 2016.
Morrow signed another minor-league deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2017. He was called up in May and put up a masterful season in the Dodgers’ bullpen, posting a 2.06 ERA over 45 appearances while striking out 10.3 batters per nine innings and walking only 1.9 per nine. In the fall, Morrow became the second player ever to pitch in all seven games in the World Series, though the Dodgers, unfortunately, came up short to the Houston Astros and their trash cans.
That performance netted Morrow a two-year, $21 million deal with the Cubs. He got off to a great start in 2018 but was shut down in August because of an elbow injury that ultimately wound up ending his big-league career.
All told, he posted a 3.96 ERA over 334 appearances in the Majors and struck out 877 batters over 859 innings. Again, not the same career as Clayton Kershaw or Max Scherzer, but when Brandon Morrow was at his best, he was right up there with the great arms in baseball.
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