TORONTO – Brandon Morrow sat pensively at his locker, staring blankly across the room, occasionally downward at his fingernails, clearly frustrated by his own – not to mention the Blue Jays – slow start to the season.
“I guess I could throw more pitches in the bullpen or just bare down a little bit quicker in the first inning, mentally and just try to find that rhythm a little better,” said Morrow, who took the loss in the Blue Jays 9-4 defeat at the hands of the Yankees.
Morrow allowed seven runs (five earned) on nine hits over five and a third innings on Friday night. He allowed two first-inning runs – marking the 11th time in the Blue Jays' 17 games this season the club has trailed at some point during the first two innings – but it was a defensive miscue in the third that sealed Toronto's fate.
The Yankees were ahead 3-1 and with one out, Ichiro Suzuki was on second and Vernon Wells was on third. Eduardo Nunez hit a shallow fly ball to centre; Colby Rasmus made the catch and fired a throw home as the Yankees' runners retreated. The ball skipped on catcher J.P. Arencibia, who'd come off the dirt at home plate to receive the throw, and ricocheted into the Yankees' dugout. Wells and Suzuki scored on the throwing error, the Yankees led 5-1, and the Blue Jays were deflated.
“I knew that it was probably going to short hop me if I stayed back and could have hopped over me so I tried to attack it, tried to keep it in front of me and with that happening it kind of ate me up even more,” said Arencibia. “I tried to block it; it hit off of me and went into the dugout so it's one of those unfortunate things. If he gets the next guy out, strikes him out, we're out of that inning and those two runs don't score so that was a big play.”
Toronto is 7-10. The Yankees, who are without Derek Jeter (ankle), Alex Rodriguez (hip), Curtis Granderson (forearm), Mark Teixeira (wrist) and Michael Pineda (shoulder), to name a few, improved to 9-6. Adding salt in the home crowd's wound were former Blue Jays Vernon Wells and Lyle Overbay, who each hit home runs.
“One step forward, two steps back, that's kind of what's going on,” said manager John Gibbons. “We're just kind of sputtering. We haven't really been able to get anything going. We've had some well-pitched outings and haven't gotten a lot of offence with them. Then tonight, you fall behind big and the pitcher shuts you down. He was pretty good. Nothing's come together yet. I think it will; it's just a matter of time. I mean it's time to start playing some better baseball, there's no question about it because we've got a good team.”
Jose Bautista provided a spark, hitting his fourth home run of the season in his return from a four-game absence with back spasms. The trouble was that the sixth inning shot to dead-centre trimmed the Yankees' lead to five; the game already was out of hand.
Players insist there is no panic in the clubhouse; it's mid-April and there are 145 games left to be played. But surely it's mentally, emotionally taxing to ride of wave of spring expectations to a slow start. If it is Arencibia's playing with his poker face on.
“Gibbons talked to us in spring training and said you know what, if we start off hot or start off cold, in this game you've got to stay mentally tough,” said Arencibia. “The teams and the guys that are the best are the ones that stay mentally tough. Obviously we're not off to the best start but, again, no one's panicking. No one's worried as far as we've got to make our adjustments and turn this around but it's a long season ahead.”
“I'm not worried about that,” said Gibbons. “We still have a confident bunch but I know they're all frustrated, as we all are, everybody involved with the team. We wanted to get off to a great start, it didn't happen, you know we've got some guys struggling but a lot of teams do. You've still got to play good, sound baseball until things get going. That's how you stay in the game, give yourself a chance to win and tonight we really didn't do that. I'm not worried about that because I know the character of the guys in there. It's a game of failures, everybody wants to produce and things like that and confidence in this business can waver. We've got to fight through that.”
R.A. Dickey Update
The knuckleballer was sore on Friday after leaving Thursday's dominant start after six innings. Dickey experienced a recurrence of neck spasms, which began to bother him toward the end of his outing in Kansas City.
When asked if he was confident he could make his next scheduled start, Tuesday in Baltimore, Dickey responded, “Ask me on Monday.”