The notion of teaming up Brandon Morrow with Felix Hernandez in the Seattle rotation is an enticing one on nights like this.
“You like to dream a bit,” said Morrow’s manager after his dominating effort.
No, not Don Wakamatsu. Actually, the quote was from Jim Riggleman, after Morrow took a no-hitter into the eighth inning on Sept. 5, 2008 in his first major-league start. It was broken up with two outs on a double by — trivia alert — Wilson Betemit.
Obviously, it didn’t work out as hoped, or dreamt. Morrow didn’t end up in the rotation, as envisioned. Instead, he started the year as closer, imploded on consecutive nights in Texas in May, lost the job to David Aardsma, struggled to make the transition to starting, wound up in Tacoma for two months, made three middling starts since coming back up…and then this.
His effort tonight was everything the Mariners envision when they dream about Morrow harnessing his stuff, and learning how to mix and command his pitches. He threw hard, he threw soft, he threw strikes — 70 out of 105 pitches. He didn’t walk anyone until two outs in the eighth, when he walked two — but then got the third out. He struck out nine. He gave up one measley infield single, in the fourth, to Rajai Davis. Morrow talked about how tired he was in the eighth, his legs wobbly, so I asked him if he would have gone out for the ninth if Davis had been thrown out instead of beating Josh Wilson’s throw by a step. In other words, if he had a no-hitter going. Duh.
“I would have gone out for the ninth. Definitely. I mean, I would have begged to,” he said.
Don Wakamatsu, not surprisingly, raved about Morrow.
“I don’t know if we’ve had a better-pitched start this year. You can put that right up there with any of the top ones. It’s awfully nice to see the adjustments in a guy, especially having his last start end on a note like that and give us a lot of hope going into next year for him.
“I saw a lot of movement on his fastball. I saw him change speeds and until the eighth inning he hadn’t walked a batter. His tempo to the plate. Really a clinic I don’t know if you can ask for any more in the last appearance of the year. Going into spring training when we’re looking for spots in the rotation, for him to end on that gives us a strong belief system going into the winter.”
Morrow said he believes that what he showed tonight can carry over.
“Yeah, definitely. I’m going to get that game on DVD and watch it about 20 times. It’s a great way to finish after what I thought was a rough year, especially the first half.
“I hope at least we can look and see I’m moving in the right direction. Almost exponentially, start to start, it’s getting better. There’s obviously some consistency things I need to work on, and that’s going to come from repitition.”
To get back to my opening thought, the Mariners desperately need a pitcher at the top of the rotation to compliment Felix. Could Morrow be that guy? One start — or two starts, a year apart — do not a dominant starter make. But it’s enough to make you dream a bit.
(Photo by Associated Press)