5:50 PM Eastern
And it certainly was. Take nothing away from the something-ness of yesterday’s 17-11 J.P. Arencibia show, but today’s game was – as the late, great Tom Cheek used to say – something else again.
It was a phenomenal capper to a magical weekend at the ol’ ballyard in which the Jays swept away the Tampa Bay Rays in three incredible games, each one better than the last.
This time, it was the Brandon Morrow show.
Morrow was one out away from a no-hitter and struck out 17 with a fastball in the mid-90s and a slider that couldn’t be hit with a tennis racket. The one hit came on a weak grounder by Evan Longoria hit in the exact perfect place in the 3-4 hole, right between Lyle Overbay and Aaron Hill. Hill came over a long way, dove, and had the ball kick off of his glove. There’s no question at all that it had to be scored a base hit, and it certainly brought back memories of Dave Stieb, Julio Franco and Jim Traber. Like Stieb, Morrow composed himself, bore down and got the next hitter to finish up the shutout. In Morrow’s case, it was a strikeout of Dan Johnson with the tying run on third base for his first career complete game and shutout.
Stieb had those near no-hitters in consecutive starts, his last two of 1988, and then threw another one-hitter in his second start of 1989, so Morrow has a tough act to follow, but his 137-pitch performance this afternoon stands up with any one of Stieb’s efforts, including the lone no-no in franchise history.
Morrow is the third Blue Jays pitcher to lose a no-hitter with two out in the 9th inning – Stieb did it three times (twice on little cheesy nothing hits to second, just like Morrow today) and Roy Halladay did it once, in his second start in the big leagues. Morrow can take some solace in the fact that both Stieb and Halladay eventually got their no-no’s.
But this wasn’t a day to lament what could have been, at least not too much. It would have been even more incredible had Longoria’s ground ball been three feet to the left or to the right and Morrow picked up the no-hitter, but the complete-game one-hitter with 17 strikeouts against only two walks is pretty freaking amazing.
By Game Score, this was the best-pitched game in Blue Jays history, and I’m inclined to agree. Sure, Stieb got the no-hitter against the Indians, but it didn’t come complete with 17 strikeouts. Yes, Clemens has the club record with 18 strikeouts in a single game, but he gave up three hits, two of them line drives (one to Larry Sutton – come on). The Rays didn’t even put a ball in play in fair territory today until the 9th batter of the ballgame, and though they hit a couple of deep fly balls, they didn’t hit a single line drive all afternoon.
One of those deep fly balls, by the way, was hit by Ben Zobrist with two out in the 6th and Vernon Wells tracked it to the wall in deep left-centre, leapt and made a fantastic catch. He either caught his right big toe in the wall when he came down or jammed it on the warning track, and dislocated it. He’ll have his foot x-rayed tomorrow, and if there’s no fracture Wells hopes to be back in the line-up on Tuesday. Wells drove in the game’s only run with a two-out bloop single in the first inning, scoring Yunel Escobar, who had just gone from first to third on a hit-and-run groundout by Jose Bautista.
It’s pretty amazing that in a three-game series in which the Blue Jays outscored the Rays 20-12, we saw two brilliantly-pitched games.
These last two games felt magical. There was a buzz in this place that (outside the Canada-USA game at the World Baseball Classic last year) hasn’t been here since “The Glory Days”. Hitters are getting standing ovations, fans are chanting players’ names, people are really getting into the game. Honestly, you can’t ask for two better games as far as crowd pleasers go than the last two, but it does feel like some folks are starting to realize just how good and how exciting this group is. I really hope it carries forward. Who knows, maybe there will be more Blue Jays fans than Red Sox fans in the building for the Boston series that starts on Tuesday!
What a weekend.
Here’s this afternoon’s edition of The Extendo-JaysTalk, for your listening pleasure:
And here’s the transcript from this afternoon’s “Miked Up LIVE!”: