Published April 19, 2012
TORONTO – The Tampa Bay Rays have seen Blue Jays righty Brandon Morrow at his best. They didn't see that on Wednesday night.
Luke Scott hit a grand slam, Ben Zobrist added a two-run shot and the Rays hit four homers in a 12-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays.
Three of the four homers came off Morrow, who came in 4-2 with a 2.25 ERA in his six previous starts against the Rays.
Back in August 2010, Morrow beat Tampa Bay with a 17-strikeout, one-hitter. Plagued by poor control of his fastball and an inconsistent curveball, he wasn't anywhere near as effective in this one.
"I thought (the fastball) was flat in the zone," Morrow said. "It found a lot of bats. Tried a number of times to get my curveball over, that wasn't working for me. Had a decent change-up but when you've got poor fastball command like that, things aren't going to go well."
Rays manager Joe Maddon noticed Morrow going to his change-up more often, and knew something was amiss.
"He wasn't on top of his game like he can be, there's no question," Maddon said. "We've seen him at his best and, of course, that wasn't his best tonight."
Morrow allowed six runs and eight hits in six innings, walked three and matched a career high for homers allowed.
"He wasn't able to get away with too many mistakes," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said. "First-pitch fastballs found their way back to the middle and were squared up for extra-bases."
Matt Joyce and Sean Rodriguez hit solo shots for Tampa Bay, which had not homered more than twice in any game this season. Joyce homered for the second straight game and got three hits and scored three runs.
Scott hit his third career grand slam and first since 2010 as the Rays broke the game open with a six-run ninth, setting a season high in runs scored.
Looking for more RBI opportunities for Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria, Maddon moved Zobrist up to second in the batting order after Zobrist had started 10 of the first 11 games in the fifth spot.
Zobrist made the move look good with his first swing, drilling a two-run shot to right in the first off Morrow (0-1).
Zobrist came in 3 for 21 with nine strikeouts in his career against Morrow.
David Price (2-1) rebounded from a poor outing at Boston last Friday to improve to 10-2 with a 2.06 ERA in 14 career starts against Toronto. The left-hander allowed two runs and eight hits in 5 2-3 innings.
"I felt better as the game went along," Price said. "It's tough to get into a groove right now but it's getting there. I feel better every time I get out there."
Price is 4-0 in five career starts at Rogers Centre.
Rays reliever Wade Davis worked 1 2-3 innings, Joel Peralta struck out two in the eighth and J.P. Howell finished in the ninth.
Toronto answered Zobrist's homer in the bottom of the first when Yunel Escobar singled and later scored on Jose Bautista's single up the middle.
Joyce restored the two-run cushion in the second, leading off with a double and scoring on Rodriguez's sacrifice fly.
Jeff Mathis hit a solo homer in the bottom half, cutting it to 3-2, but the Rays extended their lead in the fourth when Joyce hit a two-out double and Jose Molina singled.
Tampa Bay tacked on two more in the sixth when Joyce hit his third home run and Rodriguez hit his first.
The Rays put it away in the ninth against Carlos Villanueva, who was pitching for the first time since April 8 at Cleveland. Carlos Pena drew a bases-loaded walk, Evan Longoria followed with an RBI single and Scott hit his third homer.
NOTES: Escobar matched his career high with four hits, going 4 for 5. All of his hits were singles. It's the ninth four-hit game of his career. ... With his pinch-hit single in the eighth, 44-year-old Omar Vizquel became the oldest player in Blue Jays history to record a base hit. ... Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos said either Double-A RHP Drew Hutchison or Triple-A RHP Jesse Chavez will likely be called up to start at Kansas City on April 21, the next time the Blue Jays need a fifth starter. ... Toronto RHP Henderson Alvarez, who'll face Tampa Bay RHP Jeremy Hellickson in Thursday's series finale, celebrated his 22nd birthday Wednesday.