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Morrow shuts out Yankees over eight innings

TORONTO -- It was a determined and refocused Brandon Morrow that took the mound on Sunday afternoon against New York.

Toronto's right-hander was done worrying about how deep into a game he could pitch. No longer was he trying to conserve energy in an effort to throw a lot of innings. Instead, he threw close to max effort from start to finish.

Morrow pitched eight scoreless innings and Adam Lind hit a pair of home runs to lead the Blue Jays to a 3-0 victory over the Yankees at Rogers Centre.

"I went out very aggressive," Morrow said. "I was very aggressive in my bullpen [session] and warming up, and I just said I'm going to give everything I have pretty much on every pitch, go right at them and give it my best stuff.

"I went as hard as I could for as long as I could."

Morrow entered the game having struggled more in recent starts than at any other point in his career. The 27-year-old was 0-4 with a 9.47 ERA in his past five outings and opposing hitters were batting .321 against him during that span.

Toronto's No. 2 starter shook off those recent woes with a dominating performance against New York. He allowed just four hits -- including three that didn't leave the infield -- while walking just one and striking out eight.

One of his biggest adjustments on Sunday was a new cut fastball that came from making a slight adjustment on his slider. Morrow unveiled the pitch during his last start against Boston and -- despite a home run by Jacoby Ellsbury -- he liked the results.

"What he has done is he has taken his slider and tightened it up some," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said. "So a lot of the pitches, where he was in fastball counts, he would go to the cutter.

"Then he used his curveball a little bit more as a finishing pitch."

Morrow's afternoon didn't appear as though it was going to get off to a good start. In the first inning, he allowed two of the first three batters he faced to reach base, but he was then aided by catcher J.P. Arencibia, who threw out Robinson Cano on a double-steal attempt.

From that point on, Morrow was nearly untouchable. He allowed one hit in the second inning before retiring the next 12 batters he faced. Morrow faced the minimum from the third inning until his outing ended after the eighth, and New York had just one runner reach scoring position during his eight innings.

That matched Morrow's longest outing of the season and was the third time this year he went through a start without allowing an earned run. It also marked Morrow's first win since Aug. 17 and his fifth since the All-Star break.

New York's hitters were off balance at the plate all game, and the new cut fastball was a big reason why. After the game, Alex Rodriguez still thought he was being thrown sliders.

"He had us baffled all day with the slider," said Rodriguez, who went 0-for-4. "He probably threw 70, 75 percent sliders, which is very substantial. He's usually the opposite -- 70, 75 percent fastballs. He threw the ball well."

Lind did almost all of the damage on offense for the Blue Jays. He led off the second inning with a solo shot to right-center field off right-hander Freddy Garcia for his 25th home run of the season.

Toronto's designated hitter then came to bat again in the fourth inning and homered off Garcia for the second time, this time to center field. It marked the third time this season -- and seventh of his career -- that Lind had a multi-homer game. Lind finished the three-game series against New York batting .500 (6-for-12) with two homers, two doubles, and five RBIs.

"Probably a good pitch and bad hitting," Lind said of his first home run. "I probably shouldn't swing at a pitch like that. But I got my barrel underneath the ball, and I hit it perfect on the sweet spot.

"Second, not quite as low, hit that one better."

The Blue Jays added another run in the fifth on a sacrifice fly by Eric Thames, who was later removed from the game in the seventh inning after fouling a ball off his eye. All three runs were charged to Garcia, who surrendered five hits and three walks in 4 2/3 innings.

Toronto's victory on Sunday secured the club's first series victory of three or more games at home against New York since Sept. 27-29, 2010. The two sides wrapped up their season series as well, with the Blue Jays possessing a 7-11 record.

The biggest positive Toronto can take from Sunday was the resurgence of Morrow, who will have a key role in the starting rotation moving forward.

Morrow likely will receive two more starts before the end of the season, and his approach will be similar to the one he had against New York.

"The one thing that he's attempted to do is pitch a little more controlled at times," Farrell said his Morrow's previous starts. "In other words, not reach back for his best velocity all the time."

"He went out today with a little bit more determination from the first pitch on. So when he made a mislocated pitch on the plate, it was a foul ball rather than a pitch getting squared up. He was able to sustain that stuff for the entire outing."

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