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BAL@TOR: Morrow strikes out eight over 6 1/3 innings

TORONTO -- Brandon Morrow had something to prove on Wednesday night -- if not to himself, then at least to those who were critical after his previous outing, in Texas.

Toronto's No. 2 starter was coming off the worst start of his career, which saw him surrender six runs in just two-thirds of an inning against the Rangers. The results this time around were drastically different.

Morrow threw 6 1/3 strong innings before departing with a contused right shin, and the Blue Jays hit four solo home runs en route to a 4-1 victory over the Orioles.

"I came into the game with a little chip on my shoulder after last time," said Morrow, who allowed just one run on four hits while striking out eight. "Of course, we knew this game was a big one -- to sweep them and get back in the race. Now we're just two games in back of them, and that was a big series for us."

That outing against Texas marked the shortest start of Morrow's big league career. An inability to locate his fastball down in the zone as well as to finish off batters with his slider led to the performance.

He had no such problems, though, against the Orioles, effectively commanding his fastball on both sides of the plate while also using his changeup and curveball combination on a more frequent basis.

His lone blemish came in the second inning, when he allowed two of the first three batters he faced to reach base before surrendering an infield RBI single to Ryan Flaherty.

From that point on, Morrow faced just one batter over the minimum until he was hit by a line drive off the bat of Wilson Betemit in the seventh. Morrow attempted to walk off the injury but eventually had to be helped off the field by a trainer and manager John Farrell. He is listed as day to day.

After the outing in Texas, Morrow said he was just going to pretend that the start never happened and that he wasn't going to make any drastic changes because of one bad start. He echoed that statement on Wednesday following his seventh quality start of the season.

"Nothing at all," Morrow said when asked what he worked on between starts. "I threw my bullpen just the same way, I didn't take any extra. Just got in, got out, hit my spots and came away with a good feeling after the bullpen and forgot about it in between. But then, this being a big game for us and that little chip on my shoulder from last time helped me out."

The Blue Jays did all of their damage via the home run. Edwin Encarnacion, Brett Lawrie, Rajai Davis and Colby Rasmus each recorded solo homers off right-hander Jason Hammel to secure the three-game sweep.

Encarnacion's blast, which came in the second inning, was his 17th of the season. He ranks second in the Major Leagues, behind only Texas center fielder Josh Hamilton, and also is second in RBIs (42) to go along with 27 extra-base hits.

Davis' shot, in the third, was his second in as many games against Baltimore, and Lawrie added his fourth of the season the following frame. Rasmus capped the offensive output in the fifth inning with his sixth homer of the season and his third in the past five games.

The 25-year-old Rasmus is now on a seven-game hitting streak, and is batting .344 with three homers, six RBIs and seven extra-base hits during that span.

Rasmus believes that his recent success can be attributed to moving up approximately six to eight inches in the batter's box and also crowding the plate on a more regular basis.

"I think with my approach now, it lets me not think about pitches that are called balls or strikes or whatever, worrying about what they're throwing," Rasmus said. "I'm just getting up there trying to just wag at anything that looks good.

"That's the way I kind of hit coming up, and I kind of changed that because I was trying to be more of an all-around hitter and trying to worry about that pitch four or five inches off the plate. But my approach this last little bit is, I'm just getting on top of the plate, and I'm trying to grip it and rip it."

Hammel allowed nine hits while striking out five in 6 2/3 innings in his first loss this month. The four homers were more than he surrendered in the past nine starts combined.

The right-hander didn't react too kindly to the loss, and appeared to accuse the Blue Jays of stealing signs during the game.

"They were taking some pretty big hacks on breaking stuff, too, which leads me to believe something else," Hammel said.

"The swings they were taking on the breaking stuff was pretty amazing to me. I don't think you can take swings like that, not knowing they're coming. I don't know, that's all I can say."

The Blue Jays have now effectively bounced back from a recent 1-5 road trip by winning three consecutive games. The fact that they were able to sweep the Orioles after being outscored over the weekend by the Rangers, 34-16, is a testament to the character of the club, according to Farrell.

"Not surprising in my mind," Farrell said. "This is a team that has been very resilient. They have been able to separate from what they did the day before, the series before.

"We were able to do just that -- put it behind us -- and go out and put three very good ballgames together."

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