© 2008 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.
09/06/08 3:00 AM ET
Morrow delights in first career start
Mariners righty flirts with no-no, giving up just one hit to Yanks
By Jim Street / MLB.com
SEATTLE -- Mariners right-hander Brandon Morrow was on a fewer-than-100 pitch count on Friday night for his first Major League start, and he blew past it like one of his upper-90-mph fastballs speeding through the strike zone. The 106th pitch he threw against the Yankees, which came with two outs and a runner on base in the eighth inning, ended his no-hit bid, but he provided a glimpse of just how good he can be in the Mariners' rotation going forward. The hometown crowd of 39,518 at Safeco Field kept getting louder with each out, as Morrow held the vaunted Yankees' offense hitless for 7 2/3 innings. The no-hitter ended when pinch-hitter Wilson Betemit stroked a line drive that sailed over Ichiro Suzuki's head in right-center. The hit scored a run, but it didn't completely spoil the night for the Mariners. Seattle relievers Justin Thomas and J.J. Putz recorded the final four outs to finish off the Mariners' 3-1 victory, their first win against the Bombers this season in seven games. It was the seventh time in the Major Leagues this season that a pitcher took a no-hitter into the eighth inning and only one of them was successful -- Red Sox lefty Jon Lester on May 19. Morrow missed, but he received a beer shower from his elated teammates. Still soaked, he met with the media afterward, calm, cool and collected. "It was a curveball that stayed up a little bit," said Morrow of his final pitch of the game. "I had confidence when I threw it, but it stayed up a little more than I wanted and he got hold of it. You can't do anything about it, but you want it back, for sure." The large crowd gave Morrow a rousing standing ovation when he departed, four outs away from joining Bobo Holloman of the St. Louis Browns on May 6, 1953, as the only pitchers to throw a no-hitter in their first MLB start. Until the eighth, the closest the Yankees came to getting a hit was in the first inning, when Derek Jeter hit a ball up the middle. Mariners shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt ranged far to his left, extended himself to the limit, snagged the ball and, in almost the same motion, made a strong, on-target throw to first base for the out. All of the outs after that were no-doubters -- until the sixth. With one out, leadoff hitter Johnny Damon hit a semi-hard line drive to first baseman Miguel Cairo, who stood on his tippy toes to make the catch. The only glitches on Morrow's masterpiece were a one-out walk on a full-count pitch to Jeter in the fourth inning and two free passes to Hideki Matsui -- one was in the eighth, just before Betemit pinch-hit for catcher Jose Molina. It was one month to the day that Morrow was sent to Triple-A Tacoma to continue his conversion from a reliever to starter. He returned and gave the Mariners -- and their fans -- one of the most memorable nights of the season. It wasn't so much how many hits the Yankees would get, but whether Morrow would be allowed to pitch a complete-game no-hitter. "We really wanted to keep him between 90 and 95 pitches," manager Jim Riggleman said. The Mariners were hoping that number of pitches would get Morrow through five or six innings. But he was at 89 pitches after seven innings and still had a no-hitter in the works. "He made it a tough decision by not giving up any hits," pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre said, "and then made it a little easier when he gave up the hit." "If he had gone through that eighth inning with 105 pitches [and a no-hitter], we had a real tough decision to make," Riggleman added. "Mel and I would have come up with something, but we wouldn't want him to go out there and throw 125 pitches after throwing 82 pitches, tops, at Tacoma." Morrow made five starts at the Triple-A level, and none of them compared to what he did in his first big league start. "He had a real good plan going into the game, followed it and executed it very well," Stottlemyre said. "He wanted to use all of his pitches and get [ahead] of the hitters. He did both very well, especially early in the game." Morrow stuck out eight, walked three and was in command from the start. "His stuff was electric tonight," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He was ahead. You talk about trying to be patient on a guy, but he was, 'Strike, strike, strike,' with all of his pitches. He had a great fastball tonight and a very good curveball and changeup. We were 0-1 all night." Seventy-two of Morrow's pitches were strikes, and they varied in speed from 83-97 mph. He threw 14 changeups. "The most impressive part is that he was so in control of everything," said Putz, who notched his 11th save. "He wasn't trying to overthrow at any point of the game. He held a very powerful offense under control. The whole bullpen had chills the entire game until they had to take him out." Morrow's game was reminiscent of the complete-game one-hitter Felix Hernandez pitched against the Red Sox at Fenway Park early last season. "This was a treat to watch, sort of like Felix's game last year in Boston," Putz said. "But it's different with home fans. Every time after the fourth inning, when he had two strikes on the batter, it was electric." Jeter, who soon will pass Babe Ruth and move into second place behind Lou Gehrig for most career hits by a Yankee, tipped his cap to Morrow. "He had an overpowering fastball, and I think as the game went on, he started mixing in a few more breaking balls and his offspeed stuff," Jeter said. "He wasn't falling behind guys, he was coming after us and I don't think he was throwing too many balls out over the middle of the plate." While Morrow stole the spotlight, rookie third baseman Matt Tuiasosopo had a big role in the outcome. He delivered a double to right field, setting up two Seattle runs in the fourth inning that increased a one-run edge and gave the Mariners all the runs they would need. Wladimir Balentien started the inning with a single into right-center, and Tuiasosopo, who flied out to center in his first big league at-bat, drilled the first pitch he saw from Yankees left-hander Andy Pettitte into right field. Catcher Kenji Johjima grounded an RBI single into left field, and Cairo scored Tuiasosopo with an infield out. The Mariners took a 1-0 lead in the third inning, when Cairo ripped a double into the left-field corner leading off and advanced to third on Suzuki's single to left field. Third-base coach Sam Perlozzo played it safe and held Cairo at third. The cautious approach paid off when Betancourt hit a sacrifice fly to Damon, whose throw from center never reached the plate.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.