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A glimpse of great expectations

8/9/2010
Scouts always saw Brandon Morrow as a major talent, but how he's been used has been an issue. Getty Images

The Seattle Mariners had the fifth pick in the 2006 draft and they selected Brandon Morrow, passing on a local kid who grew up within a hard ground ball of Safeco Field, Tim Lincecum.

It doesn't make life any easier to have this kind of thing on your resume. And while Lincecum became great immediately, Morrow did what a lot of young pitchers do -- he struggled. He switched from being a starter to being a reliever and then he switched back, and by the end of the 2009 season, there were enough questions about him and enough doubt that the Mariners traded him to the Blue Jays for Brandon League.

If you had only tracked Morrow by his earned run average, which stood at 4.79 going into Sunday's start, you might've thought that he's continued to struggle. But he has had bursts of excellence all summer long, innings and games when he was completely dominant, when you could see him putting together his fastball and his changeup and breaking ball more consistently, when you could see his potential coming together.

"The only question about him now is his consistency," one talent evaluator said at the All-Star break. "He'll lose it for an inning or a series of batters."

But Morrow held it together throughout his start on Sunday, en route to 17 strikeouts and a near no-hitter. He was absolutely dominant, in a way that few pitchers can be. After the game, Morrow didn't seemed overwhelmed by the disappointment of failing to finish the no-hitter, and given where he came from -- and where he seems to be going -- that was completely appropriate.

How Morrow nearly no-hit the Rays, from Albert Larcada of ESPN Stats & Information:

A) He threw 25 changeups (career high) for 18.3 percent of his pitches (third most in a start in his career).

B) The Rays chased 38.5 percent of pitches out of the zone (second most in a start in his career).

C) He threw 70.8 percent strikes (second most in a start in his career).

D) He induced 20 swings-and-misses (second most in a game in his career).

He also joined a club of pitchers that have lost a no-hitter with two outs in the ninth inning since 2000 (Mike Mussina and Armando Galarraga had perfect game bids):

Brandon Morrow: Aug. 8, 2010 vs. Rays

Armando Galarraga: June 2, 2010 vs. Indians

Curt Schilling: June 7, 2007 vs. A's

Mike Mussina: Sept. 2, 2001 vs. Red Sox

Then there's Blue Jays history:

According to Bill James' metric "Game Score," which is a one-number summary of how good a pitcher's single-game performance is, Brandon Morrow's 17-strikeout, 2-walk one-hitter on Sunday -- which got a score of 100 -- is tied for the fourth-best single-game pitching performance since 1920. It was the highest by any pitcher in a single game since Randy Johnson scored 100 in his perfect game back in 2004.

Morrow came oh-so-close to throwing a no-hitter, writes Ken Fidlin. Morrow made a scout proud, Bob Elliott writes. A near-miss like this will haunt you, says Dave Stieb. Cito Gaston wanted him to finish the game. Vernon Wells gave up his body to make a big play.

By the way: Dave Perkins was the official scorer in the Rogers Centre on Sunday, and he deserves credit for having integrity on the Evan Longoria play. There is a small minority of official scorers who would have made a different call in that situation, with the home team's pitcher so close to history, on a ball that hit the glove of a fielder -- but Perkins made exactly the correct call, immediately.

Elsewhere

• Meanwhile: The Rays continue to be a mystery team. It can't be coincidence that they either have been no-hit or have come close to being no-hit repeatedly, and that they've fallen into these inexplicable funks; Sunday's loss was their fifth straight.

But more importantly, they've got a couple of sore-armed starters, John Romano writes. The Rays don't think either Jeff Niemann or Wade Davis is seriously hurt, but they will spend the day in an MRI tube, writes Marc Topkin.

• The Pirates fired two coaches, and the moves reassert the authority of manager John Russell.

Voices

1. Braves GM Frank Wren, in an e-mail about the progression he has seen in Mike Minor, who makes his debut today for the Braves: "He has grown a lot since he had just a short exposure to pro ball last year. In the spring he was very respectful and made a strong impression with our veterans and staff. Then he went out and backed it up with strong performances. His command and stuff has continued to get better."

2. Chuck Greenberg, whose ownership of the Texas Rangers could be approved this week by Major League Baseball, on what this week will mean to the team, in an e-mail: "All of us are looking forward to this week with a great sense of anticipation. First the Yankees, then hopefully approval from MLB followed by the Red Sox for the weekend, with huge crowds and historic levels of excitement among our fans, it just doesn't get any better than this ... at least until October."

3. Texas GM Jon Daniels, on what the resolution of the ownership situation means to the Rangers: "The [players] were pretty well insulated from it, and other than occasionally asking a question or two, it wasn't a distraction. The biggest short-term impact should be the way we can market the club, upgrading our facilities for next year, and planning for next year and beyond (both big league payroll and building our infrastructure). Plus, it settles things down where our staff won't be worried about their futures -- a lot of good things going on here now, and the only thing that would have kept us from keeping our best people would have been a lack of stability."

Dings and dents

1. Dustin Pedroia is making progress in his rehab. The question will be: Is it too late?

2. A-Rod was back in the lineup, but A.J. Burnett was a late scratch.

3. Chris Coghlan will undergo knee surgery.

4. Mark Reynolds was back in the lineup.

5. Alex Gordon's sore heel is getting better.

6. Kevin Slowey has a sore elbow and Francisco Liriano has a dead arm.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. In a meeting with his manager, Jeff Francoeur was told he will play more against right-handers.

2. The Nationals cleared the way for Stephen Strasburg to be added to the active roster.

3. Keeping Cliff Lee will be a priority for the Rangers' new owners, writes Randy Galloway.

4. Eric Chavez is mulling the possibility of retirement, again.

5. Oakland is about to call up its top prospect, writes Susan Slusser.

6. The Dodgers moved to cut Garret Anderson, and have called up Jay Gibbons. Gibbons has worked very hard for the moment he had yesterday.

7. Hideki Matsui was benched.

8. Jim Thome wants to keep playing.

Sunday's games

1. Josh Beckett couldn't give the Red Sox the lift they needed, Amalie Benjamin writes. Beckett has struggled of late against the Yankees, Dan Shaughnessy writes.

It was typically forgettable, writes John Tomase.

2. Raul Ibanez has been revitalized, just when the Phillies have needed him, and he had a big day on Sunday, in support of Roy Halladay, writes David Murphy. How Halladay beat the Mets, from Mr. Larcada: "There were six left-handed hitters (or switch-hitters batting left) in the Mets' lineup on Sunday, to whom Halladay threw 75 percent of his total pitches (83-of-111). Lefties went 0-for-16 against Halladay during his complete-game shutout on May 1 but saw a much different game plan from the Phillies' ace on Sunday, with much better results. They hit .409 (9-for-22) against him with four doubles and drove in four of the team's 5 RBIs."

• May 1 numbers courtesy of Bloomberg Sports.

This was not Halladay's typical masterpiece, writes Bill Conlin.

3. The Rockies split their series in Pittsburgh, Troy Renck writes. Carlos Gonzalez has thrived in the middle of the Rockies' lineup. Since being moved to the middle of the order, Gonzalez has been on fire. Gonzalez is showing more power and a better eye in the heart of the Rockies' lineup.

4. Derek Jeter passed Babe Ruth on the all-time hits list, writes Thomas Kaplan. Jeter is great, but he's no Babe Ruth, writes Filip Bondy.

Dustin Moseley might be a surprise to everybody but himself, writes Joel Sherman. Lance Berkman turned jeers into cheers, Brian Costello writes.

5. The Braves' bench lifted them, again, Carroll Rogers writes. The Braves did not fold, writes Mark Bradley.

6. The Rangers struggled for runs again, writes Jeff Wilson. The Texas Rangers can't let mistakes turn them from predators into prey, writes Evan Grant.

7. Oakland will spend the winter looking for position players, but there can be no doubt: The Athletics have put together a pitching staff that can be the backbone of a contender. They have not yet conceded the AL West to the Rangers, writes Carl Steward, with Trevor Cahill leading the way.

8. The Mariners closed out a series win against the Royals. Chone Figgins is starting to look like the guy the Mariners thought they were getting when they signed him, writes Geoff Baker. By the way: Research legend Mark Simon dug this one out -- Seattle has a chance to be the first team since the '74 Padres to score fewer than 200 runs in the second half of a season.

9. Jonathan Sanchez lost, but felt good enough to make a prediction, John Shea writes. This is bound to be bulletin board material: "We're going to play San Diego, and we're going to beat them three times. If we get to first place, we're not going to look back."

10. Jamey Carroll, who has had a terrific season, lifted the Dodgers on Sunday.

11. The Angels were dumped.

12. Mat Latos picked up the Padres, again, Bill Center writes.

13. The Twins beat the Indians, and re-shuffled their rotation, writes Joe Christensen.

14. Joey Votto and the Reds closed out a sweep.

15. Paul Maholm got pounded.

16. The O's topped the White Sox.

17. Jason Marquis fell behind, and the Nationals couldn't catch up, Adam Kilgore writes.

18. The D-backs got drilled.

The Patience Index

Other stuff

David Ortiz says the umpires have a lot to do with the rash of no-hitters and no-hit bids, writes Daniel Barbarisi.

• The upcoming Reds-Cardinals series will stoke pennant fever, writes Bernie Miklasz.

• Efforts are underway to mark the grave of a Negro League standout.

• The Astros' Chris Johnson might be the National League's best player since the All-Star break, writes Richard Justice.

Cesar Izturis collected his 1,000th hit.

• The D-backs unveiled the All-Star Game logo, writes Nick Piecoro.

• The criticism that the Marlins' manager is taking for a decision made over the weekend is premature, writes Juan Rodriguez.

Pat Burrell has been a perfect complement in the Giants' lineup, says a teammate.

• A couple of guys have been consistent stars for the Rockies out of the bullpen.

• Ryne Sandberg has taken a slow road in his effort to become a major league manager.

• Minor's rise to the majors included his years at Vanderbilt, writes Jeff Lockridge.

And today will be better than yesterday.