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TB@TOR: Mathis takes Price deep for a solo shot

TORONTO -- The ball has been flying out of Rogers Centre all month long, and Wednesday night was no exception.

Last week, Blue Jays manager John Farrell referred to his home digs as a "ballpark full of helium" after a game that saw seven balls leave the yard. Entering Wednesday, Rogers Centre was the fourth-most home-run-friendly park in the American League and by the time the game was done, five more homers were hit -- three off Blue Jays starter Brandon Morrow.

Morrow struggled out of the gate and never got into a comfort zone, while Toronto's bats couldn't capitalize with runners on, and the Blue Jays dropped Game 2 of a three-game set with the Rays, 12-2. The series is tied at 1-1 with Thursday's rubber game on tap.

"Brandon had powerful stuff," Farrell said. "[But] when he made a mistake out over the plate, he wasn't able to get away with too many mistakes. With first-pitch fastballs they found their way back to the middle and were squared up for extra bases.

"He was up in the zone a little bit more tonight than the first outing in Cleveland. Again, fly balls in this ballpark can be a dangerous combination."

The Rays immediately got to Morrow, as Desmond Jennings led off the game with a single up the middle and Ben Zobrist hit a first-pitch fastball over the fence in right the following at-bat, his second homer of the season, to give Tampa Bay an early 2-0 lead. Morrow, who gave up many well-hit balls in the first, needed 22 pitches to get out of the inning.

After the Blue Jays got one back in the bottom half of the inning courtesy of an RBI single from Jose Bautista, Tampa Bay tacked on another run in the second.

Matt Joyce, who led off the inning with a double, scored on a sacrifice fly to left field by shortstop Sean Rodriguez that put the Rays ahead, 3-1. The two proved to be a problem for Morrow all game long.

Joyce hit another double off Morrow in the fourth and laced a solo homer to right off him in the sixth. Two batters later, Rodriguez drove a 1-0 offering over the fence in center for his first homer of the year to give Tampa a 6-2 lead. Joyce, who went 3-for-5 with three runs scored, had three extra-base hits off Morrow.

"I wasn't very good with my fastball at all, poor command, and I thought it was flat in the zone," said Morrow, whose three home runs allowed matched a career high and the most he's allowed in a game since an Aug. 28 start against the Rays last season.

"I tried a number of times to get my curveball over, that wasn't working for me. Had a decent changeup, but when you've got poor fastball command like that, things aren't going to go well."

Morrow, who entered the game with a 2.26 ERA over 12 career appearances against the Rays, lasted six innings and surrendered six runs on eight hits with three walks. The righty threw 57 of his 98 pitches for strikes.

Morrow, who fanned two, has just nine strikeouts on the season after leading the AL with 10.19 K/9 in 2011.

Farrell agreed that Morrow's command was something that troubled his starter, but he also saw some mechanical things that may have contributed to the difficult start.

"At times he can get a little quick over the rubber and would start to leap towards the catcher rather than taking that turn and allowing things to catch up -- the timing of it wise," Farrell said. "Sometimes it appears that when he tries to get some extra velocity that's when he ends up getting a little more flat in the zone instead of maintaining that downhill plane."

The skipper doesn't plan to implement anything different for Morrow's off-day routine, despite the fact he's allowed six homers over three starts -- 20 innings of work -- and is allowing 2.7 home runs per nine innings. The long ball has plagued Morrow for much of his career -- last season his mark of 1.05 home runs per nine innings was among the top-10 highest in the AL.

"It still centers around fastball location. ... That's where effectiveness is sustained," said Farrell, when asked what the biggest priority should be for Morrow between starts.

Entering the game, Rays players had very little success against Morrow. Lifetime, the current roster was hitting just .171 with a .310 on-base and .274 slugging percentage, good for a measly .583 OPS. Also, among teams that Morrow had at least nine appearances against, his 2.26 ERA vs. Tampa Bay was the lowest.

Things went differently against the Rays in Morrow's first go at them this season, and the offense failed to take advantage of Rays starter David Price, who, like Morrow, didn't have his best stuff.

Price went 5 2/3 innings and gave up eight hits, but limited the Blue Jays to two runs. The only run the left-hander gave up after Bautista's RBI single in the first was a solo homer to Jeff Mathis, his first as a member of the Blue Jays that cut Tampa Bay's lead to 3-2. That was as close as Toronto would come.

The Rays made things even worse in the ninth inning as Carlos Villanueva, who was making his first appearance since April 8, allowed six runs -- including a grand slam to designated hitter Luke Scott. That was the type of offensive production the Blue Jays were unable to get as they left 11 men on base en route to suffering their fifth loss of the season. Comments