TORONTO — Charlie Morton is frustrated that he hasn’t had the usual command of his fastball over his two starts and plans to get to work in figuring out why.
Of some solace is that the he still was able to put the Rays in position to win those games: Tuesday, when he went five innings (and 93 pitches) in Chicago, and Sunday, when he went 4⅔ (and 92 pitches) against the Jays.
“Pretty sloppy outing by me,” he said. “Didn’t really know where the ball was going, kind of like my last one. Fastball command was not there.
“I guess I made some good pitches in situations when we were under pressure, but I keep running my pitch count up and keep having shorter outings, so it’s a little disappointing.”
What worked in Sunday’s 8-4 win was the right-hander’s ability to get out of the messes he made.
After allowing a quick run in the first inning, he got a double-play grounder and a strikeout to keep it to one. After loading the bases in the fourth, he broke Brandon Drury’s bat in getting him to pop out. And he got the ground ball needed to get out of a two-on situation in the fifth, but third baseman Daniel Robertson dropped it trying to make a throw.
“It’ll come,” Morton said. “Hopefully sooner than later.”
Kolarek with a K
Reliever Adam Kolarek came in with the bases loaded in the fifth after the Robertson error and struck out pinch-hitter Teoscar Hernandez to preserve what was then a 3-1 lead, then got the first two outs of the sixth. That gave him seven inherited runners for the season all stranded and nine appearances all scoreless.
Manager Kevin Cash, joking that keeping the inherited runners from scoring gets Kolarek “a lot of friends” among the other pitchers, said the lefty with the funky delivery probably deserves to be talked about more than he is.
“He does a good job,” Cash said. “You know you’re going to get strikes and more times than not you’re going to get the ball on the ground. And if you get it on the ground, we’re confident we can be positioned and we’ve got enough defense to get them out.”
Winning five straight series is an accomplishment any time, especially to start a season and with three of them on the road. More so given the taxing nature of the trip, playing nine games over 11 days in three time zones and two countries, flying nearly 6,000 miles, and going 7-2.
“Hopefully they can ride this momentum,’’ Cash said. “We’ve got an off-day (Monday), a welcomed off-day. It’s been a long trip, and it turned into a really positive, really good trip. Great trip. Everybody played a role in it. When you’re playing baseball and everybody is impacting the club in a positive way, it makes it fun.”
* Tommy Pham got the day off as part of the ongoing rotation to rest players, even more valuable Sunday, Cash said, as it gets Pham a day off the turf and a two-day break as the team is off Monday. Pham has a streak of reaching base in 47 straight games.
* With infielder Joey Wendle (hamstring) due off the injured list possibly as soon as this weekend, Brandon Lowe will resume working at first base, which will allow more opportunity to be in the lineup.
* Not to make you feel old or anything, but Jays reliever Elvis Luciano, 19, is the first player in the majors who was born in the 2000s.
* The Rays on Tuesday open an interesting stretch of their schedule, hosting the Orioles, Red Sox and Royals, then facing the same three teams on the road, going to Boston, Kansas City and Baltimore.
Number of the day
Pitches thrown by Jays reliever Thomas Pannone to strike out all three Rays hitters, completing an immaculate inning, the third in Jays history and first at the Rogers Centre.