06/10/08 11:02 PM ET
McGowan goes distance in Jays' win
Right-hander controls Mariners; Wells, Wilkerson go deep
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
McGowan's 125th offering on the evening was chopped to the turf by Seattle's Richie Sexson, whose groundout sealed a complete-game for the right-hander and brought a swift conclusion to a 3-1 victory for Toronto. With that, McGowan added another win to his impressive home record.
"I can't explain it," said McGowan, offering a smile and a shrug. "I like pitching here. It's just a great place to pitch for me."
This season, McGowan has posted a 4-1 record with a crisp 1.73 ERA in front of his home crowd, improving to 13-6 with a 3.18 ERA in his career at Rogers Centre. Then, there's his road record: 6-13 lifetime with a 6.06 ERA in 37 appearances.
"You always hear the saying 'home-field advantage,'" McGowan theorized. "You pitch here more than you do at any other stadium. So you kind of get accustomed to it and get used to pitching here, and it just makes it a little bit easier."
Or, much harder on opposing hitters.
Minus one blip in the fifth inning, when Jeremy Reed turned an 0-1 offering into a solo home run for the Mariners, McGowan's night was practically spotless for the Blue Jays (34-33). Twice on the night, McGowan cruised through 13 Seattle hitters without surrendering a hit.
McGowan's 125 pitches represented a career high, but Blue Jays manager John Gibbons didn't hesitate to send the 26-year-old righty back to the mound in the ninth. McGowan finished with seven strikeouts and walked two, scattering five hits in the win over Seattle (23-42).
"Dustin was some kind of good tonight," Gibbons said.
Good to the point where his fastball was still clocking in at 99 mph in the final moments of the Toronto win. Combine that with a sharp breaking ball and the Mariners were downright handcuffed all night long.
"McGowan was good," Seattle manager John McLaren said. "He was lighting the gun up in the ninth inning. That was one of the better outing's we've seen this year.
"When he throws 99 [mph] in the ninth, it speaks for itself."
Even some of McGowan's teammates were in awe of his outing.
"It was just a dominating performance," Jays outfielder Brad Wilkerson said. "He's got great stuff. He really went after the hitters tonight. To go out there with 115 pitches in the ninth, that shows how big of a horse he is.
"It's great for this organization to have a young guy like that who can go out there and give you that kind of performance."
Eight of the outs created by McGowan (5-4) came via grounder, including a critical double play not long after Reed went yard. Following that homer, which moved the game into a 1-1 tie, Sexson singled to center field. Jamie Burke then bounced into a double play and McGowan eventually escaped the inning.
"Any time you play good defense, you're going to stay in games," said McGowan, referring to the double play. "That was probably the toughest inning for me, but we got out of it and went from there."
In the home half of the fifth inning, the Blue Jays reclaimed the lead behind a solo homer off the bat of Wilkerson -- released by the same Mariners at the end of April. Wilkerson drilled a 3-2 offering from Mariners righty Carlos Silva deep to center field to move Toronto ahead, 2-1.
"He left a fastball out over the plate where I could drive it," said Wilkerson, whose homer was one of two in the win for the Blue Jays. "It was a big hit for us at that time to put us up."
An inning later, Blue Jays third baseman Scott Rolen contributed a run-scoring single to up the cushion to two runs. That, along with a solo blast by Vernon Wells in the second inning, provided ample support for McGowan, who didn't require much help against Seattle.
Maybe it was home-field advantage, or perhaps McGowan's effort had something to do with the new glasses he's been sporting on the hill. McGowan has started wearing the specs to help improve his vision at night -- an issue he's battled throughout his young career.
McGowan was fitted for the glasses during Spring Training, but only recently received the shipment. He's worn them twice now: Tuesday night and against the Angels on May 30. Perhaps not coincidentally, McGowan is 2-0 with a 2.40 ERA when peering through the lenses.
"I think my catcher's got tired of me crossing them up," said McGowan, who has won each of his past three decisions. "I might just wear them in every game from here on out."
Then there were the muttonchops, making a reappearance after McGowan decided to shave the substantial sideburns last month. McGowan laughed when asked about the rekindled look.
"I just do things that are unexplainable, I guess," he said. "You have one bad start and, I don't know, baseball is a funny thing. It makes you do some crazy things."
Unexplainable as his record at home.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.