Orioles-Blue Jays Preview
By MIKE LIPKA
(AP) -- Brandon Morrow has given the Toronto Blue Jays ample reason for optimism thanks to a pair of recent shutouts and an extended stretch of dominant pitching.
In his last start, though, he couldn't even give them one inning.
The right-hander may need a major bounce-back effort Wednesday night to keep pace with Baltimore starter Jason Hammel and provide the Blue Jays with a chance to sweep the teetering Orioles.
Morrow (5-3, 3.47 ERA) has long been high on potential while struggling with consistency, but he got in a groove and went 5-1 with a 1.73 ERA in his previous six starts before Friday's disaster at Texas. That stretch included one rough outing against Tampa Bay, but it also had two three-hitters along with 45 strikeouts in 41 2-3 innings.
He didn't strike out any Rangers, yielding five hits, three walks and six runs while retiring just two batters in a 14-3 loss. It was the first time he'd ever failed to get out of the first inning as a starter.
"He's had a very strong year for us," manager John Farrell said. "I'd like to think this is the aberration. He's been extremely dominant in many cases so far this year. He'll be back out there Wednesday."
Morrow's strategy going forward is simple.
"I'm just going to pretend that that game never happened," Morrow said.
Hammel (6-1, 2.78), on the other hand, is looking to replicate his last start. After back-to-back shaky performances, the right-hander shut down Kansas City on Friday, striking out seven in six scoreless innings of an 8-2 victory.
He's also been sharp against Toronto, a team he'll be facing for the third time in 2012. He fanned seven in seven innings of a 3-0 win April 25, improving to 4-0 with a 2.93 ERA in seven career starts against the Blue Jays - with his teams winning all of those games.
Hammel will be trying to stop Baltimore's longest losing streak of the season.
Apparently cooling following their surprising start, the Orioles (29-21) have lost all four games since Hammel last took the mound, including two in Toronto after they had won five of the first six in the season series.
They remained tied atop the tightening AL East after Tuesday's 8-6 defeat because Tampa Bay also lost. Adam Jones extended his hit streak to 20 - going 3 for 3 with his 15th and 16th homers and adding two walks - but Baltimore couldn't climb out of a seven-run hole.
Matt Wieters, mired in a 3-for-36 slump, was ejected for the first time in his career for arguing balls and strikes.
Jones could be primed for another big night Wednesday, having gone 8 for 20 with two homers against Morrow, and he's feeling the urgency.
"We need this salvage win," he said. "We need a win big."
Toronto (26-24) has won six of seven at home, hitting 14 homers and averaging 6.7 runs. The Blue Jays rode the contributions of the bottom third of their lineup Tuesday as Brett Lawrie, David Cooper and Rajai Davis combined to go 8 for 12 with six RBIs.
Updated May 30, 2012