TORONTO -- Here's some bad news for opposing batters: Blue Jays pitcher Brandon Morrow is hitting his stride.
Yunel Escobar doubled home the tiebreaking run in the seventh inning, Morrow struck out 10 and the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 2-1 on Wednesday night."Power pitchers sometimes take a little longer than others to hit their stride and he's clearly hit it," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said.Rookie outfielder Eric Thames hit his first career home run for Toronto, a solo shot in the sixth, but Morrow's strong outing stole the show."I faced Brandon in spring training and his (fastball) has just got so much life," Thames said. "It's downhill and it feels like it scrapes the bottom of the strike zone every time. You think it's a ball but it's right at your knees."Morrow (4-4) allowed one run and four hits in seven innings, walking three. It's the fourth time in his career he struck out at least 10, and the second time this season. His career high in strikeouts is 17, set last Aug. 8 against Tampa Bay."I didn't throw too many other things than fastball and slider today but I had the change of velocity from the two-seamer to the four-seamer and I had the slider to both sides of the plate," Morrow said.Pirates manager Clint Hurdle Morrow's slider "fantastic," but said his strikeout-prone batters didn't help themselves."We can get in swing-mode sometimes and tonight I thought we took too many fastballs early to get down in counts and gave (Morrow) the opportunity to go to the slider," Hurdle said.Pirates infielder Lyle Overbay, who played behind Morrow in Toronto last season, said his former teammate also benefited from excellent fastball location."He was hitting his spots down and away," Overbay said. "When you're throwing 94 or 95, you're not going to give up too many hits. That was huge for him because that just made everything else better."Jason Frasor worked the eighth and Frank Francisco finished in the ninth for his ninth save in 12 chances.Paul Maholm (4-9) fell to 0-7 in 11 career starts in AL stadiums.The Blue Jays won for just the third time in 10 games at home. They broke a 1-all tie in the seventh when Rajai Davis hit a ground-rule double and Escobar followed with double to center.Davis snapped an 0 for 12 slump by doubling in the fifth and finished with his first multihit game since June 3 at Baltimore."It was good to see Rajai square up a couple of baseballs," Farrell said. "I really hope this jump starts him a little bit."Escobar singled to center in the first but was thrown out trying to stretch the hit into a double. That proved costly for Toronto when Jose Bautista drew a two-out walk and Adam Lind followed with a single.Morrow set down the first 10 batters before Chase d'Arnaud lined a sharp single in the fourth. D'Arnaud was left stranded when Garrett Jones lined out and Andrew McCutchen grounded out.The Pirates opened the scoring in the fifth. Neil Walker was thrown out at the plate on an infield bouncer by Matt Diaz but Ronny Cedeno followed with a single to center, scoring Overbay.The Blue Jays tied it in the sixth when Thames hit a leadoff drive to center that bounced off the top of the wall. The rookie showed almost no outward emotion as he sped around the bases."I did an inner fist pump," Thames said. "I'm glad I was able to help tie the score and get Brandon back in the game in place for a win."Bautista followed with a double but Toronto couldn't push across another run. Lind popped out, Bautista was caught off second on Edwin Encarnacion's grounder to third and, after Aaron Hill reached on d'Arnaud's fielding error at third base, Juan Rivera popped out.
Morrow's 117 pitches were a season high. ... Pirates OF Xavier Paul (tight right hamstring) was a late scratch. Jones moved from DH to right and Matt Diaz replaced Paul, who will be re-evaluated Thursday. ... Pittsburgh RHP Jeff Karstens (5-4) will face Toronto LHP Brett Cecil (1-2) in Thursday's series finale. Recalled from Triple-A Las Vegas on Tuesday, Cecil will be making his first major league start since April 20.