Blue Jays-Athletics Preview
By NOEY KUPCHAN
(AP) -- The Toronto Blue Jays' Brandon Morrow has been sensational of late, overpowering opponents with his dominating fastball.
Morrow, however, could have his work cut out against the surging Oakland Athletics, who after taking the first of two in thrilling fashion, look to further their momentum Wednesday afternoon.
After scoring just two runs over the first eight innings Tuesday, Oakland (16-14) used a ninth-inning rally to defeat visiting Toronto 7-3. Cliff Pennington singled home Michael Taylor to tie the game at 3 before recently signed Brandon Inge hit a walk-off grand slam as the Athletics improved to 5-1 in May.
"I'm so happy here right now," said Inge, who was playing in just his seventh game - and first at home - with Oakland since being cut by the Detroit Tigers. "I fit in. It's a new start for me. I welcomed it. I know we have a young ballclub, but they can play. I'm honored to be a part of this ballclub and trying to help them win. That's what feels the best."
While the A's were in high spirits following Tuesday's result, those celebrations could be short lived with facing Morrow (3-1, 2.38 ERA).
Morrow has won three consecutive starts and is riding a scoreless streak of 19 2-3 innings after throwing a three-hitter during Thursday's 5-0 win at the Los Angeles Angels. He needed just 102 pitches to record his second career shutout.
"It was just really fastball command the whole time," said Morrow, who threw just two curve balls and no changeups. "I pretty much put it anywhere I wanted every time. ... I felt like I could have hit that down-and-away strike with my eyes closed. I probably could have thrown all fastballs the way I was locating."
After producing mixed results over his first three outings, it's safe to say the hard-throwing right-hander has found his groove.
"I feel like I have a little bit better life to (my fastball), maybe not velocity but better life, especially down in the zone, than I did the first couple of starts," he told the team's official website. "Really starting to get into a rhythm mechanically."
Morrow has gone 3-0 with a 3.99 ERA over five career starts against the A's while limiting them to a .187 average. He hasn't faced them since Aug. 17, 2010.
Oakland catcher Kurt Suzuki is 2 for 12 with a homer lifetime against Morrow, and Pennington is 2 for 11.
The A's, originally scheduled to give the ball to Brandon McCarthy in this game, instead turn to Tyson Ross (1-2, 8.55) after McCarthy felt soreness in his throwing shoulder.
Ross went 1-0 with a 2.13 ERA over his first two starts but has been hit hard in each of his last two. Six days after allowing a career-worst nine runs over four-plus innings of a 10-1 loss at Baltimore, Ross gave up seven in just 3 1-3 frames of Friday's 7-2 loss at Tampa Bay.
"It all revolved around his fastball," manager Bob Melvin told the A's official website. "Suzuki called for some pitches and they weren't getting there. He's got to be more consistent than that."
The 25-year-old right-hander could benefit from being back home, where he's 2-2 with a 2.96 ERA over five career starts. Ross, who has never started against the Blue Jays (16-14), was college teammates with Morrow at California in 2006.
Oakland could be without Yoenis Cespedes again after he sat out Tuesday with an injured left hand suffered in batting practice before the game. The slugging center fielder is batting .245 with five homers and a team-best 21 RBIs.
Updated May 9, 2012