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Pannone throws a gem in first career start

Left-hander wins debut, holding O's hitless until 7th
MLB.com @gregorMLB

TORONTO -- In the end, Thomas Pannone fell short of making Blue Jays history during the first start of his Major League career, but his outing went better than anyone could have expected.

Pannone carried a no-hitter into the top of the seventh inning and picked up his first big league victory after tossing seven scoreless frames in a 6-0 victory over the Orioles on Wednesday afternoon at Rogers Centre. Kendrys Morales homered for the fourth consecutive game, and the Blue Jays broke it wide open with five runs in the eighth to secure a three-game series sweep.

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TORONTO -- In the end, Thomas Pannone fell short of making Blue Jays history during the first start of his Major League career, but his outing went better than anyone could have expected.

Pannone carried a no-hitter into the top of the seventh inning and picked up his first big league victory after tossing seven scoreless frames in a 6-0 victory over the Orioles on Wednesday afternoon at Rogers Centre. Kendrys Morales homered for the fourth consecutive game, and the Blue Jays broke it wide open with five runs in the eighth to secure a three-game series sweep.

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Video: BAL@TOR: Urena, Travis power Blue Jays to 5-run 8th

The 24-year-old Pannone made his Major League debut earlier this month with three appearances out of the bullpen. A spot in the starting rotation opened up when right-hander Marcus Stroman was placed on the disabled list with a blister on his right hand, and once Pannone received the opportunity to impress, he did not disappoint.

"I was a little bit nervous when I woke up, but as I came here and prepared for the game, I settled in really well," Pannone said. "I knew the whole game I hadn't given up a hit yet. I think I always know as the game is going on, but I'd say it was pretty obvious to me in like the sixth inning that I had made it through at least five without giving up a hit."

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Pannone pitched around a hit batter in the first inning, and he also allowed a pair of walks, but he made it into the seventh with his no-hitter intact. He faced two batters over the minimum until Baltimore's Trey Mancini ended the no-hit bid with a hard single through the left side of the infield, which went beyond the outstretched glove of a diving Russell Martin at third base. The Blue Jays were left looking for their first no-hitter since Dave Stieb on Sept. 2, 1990, against Cleveland.

Video: BAL@TOR: Mancini singles to end no-hit bid in 7th

The Orioles put runners on second and third with nobody out following Mancini's single, after Teoscar Hernandez dropped an easy fly ball in left. With the game scoreless, Pannone was left in serious jeopardy of an impressive start turning into a loss, but he found a way to escape the inning by getting Tim Beckham and Craig Gentry to hit a pair of weak grounders and then getting Renato Nunez to pop up and end the threat. Pannone finished allowing one hit with three strikeouts, while throwing 66 of his 108 pitches for strikes.

Pannone will never be confused for a hard thrower. He needs to keep hitters off balance in order to be successful while using his curveball and changeup to complement his primary offering. With the Orioles getting their first look at Pannone, he didn't even have to mix things up as much as normal. Pannone went to his fastball 82 times -- with an average velocity of 88.3 mph -- while throwing 21 changeups and five curveballs. It was a simple, yet effective, arsenal for the series finale.

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"His fastball plays a lot higher than 89-90 mph, it plays like 92-93 [mph]," Blue Jays catcher Danny Jansen said. "He can throw it up in the zone, down in the zone … I think he hides it really well and then he uses his changeup off that, he throws it inside. Pretty high spin rate guy too, but I think he just hides it and he just commands it."

Toronto was held without a hit as well until the bottom of the fifth when Morales came through with a single. Two innings later, Morales was responsible for ending the shutout with a solo home run to right field for his 18th homer of the year. Morales has gone deep in four consecutive games for the first time in his career, and he's the first Blue Jays player to accomplish that feat since Edwin Encarnacion from Sept. 28-Oct. 3, 2015.

Video: BAL@TOR: Morales breaks tie with solo homer in 7th

"[Morales] has been a productive hitter his whole career," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "He has been steady. He's a good hitter, he really is, he always has been. He stayed with it, even after a slow start."

Video: BAL@TOR: Gibbons on Pannone's start, Morales' bat

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The catch: It seems like every no-hitter is always accompanied by an outstanding defensive play that helped make it all possible. Pannone received one of those to lead off the sixth inning when Randal Grichuk made a diving play in center field for the first out of the inning. Off the bat, it appeared as though Orioles No. 9 hitter Austin Wynns had at least a single, but Grichuk had other ideas as he tracked the sinking liner and made the catch a split second before the ball was about to short hop off the turf. Pannone might not have finished with the no-hitter, but Grichuk's grab helped extend the drama.

Video: BAL@TOR: Grichuk dives to keep Pannone's no-no intact

"I actually did think of that, because you look at all the perfect games and no-hitters that have ever been thrown, there's always that one play that's just like, 'Oh my god, that play was amazing,'" Pannone said. "So I said to myself, 'Maybe that's it. I just have to keep going.' I wasn't wrapped up in it too much. My main goal was to execute pitches and continue to roll the lineup over."

Sigh of relief: Blue Jays top setup man Ryan Tepera entered in the top of the eighth trying to protect a 1-0 lead and promptly gave up a single to the first batter he faced. Baltimore's John Andreoli later stole second base to put the tying run in scoring position with less than two outs. Pannone's strong start was in danger of being wasted, but Tepera bounced back by striking out Jonathan Villar and getting Mancini to fly out to right field. It was the 13th hold of the season for Tepera and it bought the Blue Jays enough time to break the game open in the bottom half of the frame.

SOUND SMART
• Pannone became the sixth Blue Jays pitcher to make the first start of his Major League career for Toronto this season. That set a new franchise record, surpassing the previous high of five, which was set in 1977, '95, '02 and '09.

• Prior to Wednesday afternoon, no Blue Jays rookie had ever tossed six no-hit innings. The previous high was 5 1/3 innings, which was set by Luis Perez on Aug. 21, 2011.

• Per Elias, Pannone is the fifth player in MLB history (dating back to 1900) to allow one hit or fewer and two walks or fewer in seven or more shutout innings in his first big league start.

UP NEXT
The Blue Jays will enjoy an off-day on Thursday before opening a three-game Interleague series against the Phillies on Friday at Rogers Centre. Rookie left-hander Ryan Borucki (2-3, 4.27 ERA) will get the call for Toronto in the series opener, with first pitch scheduled for 7:07 p.m. ET. Borucki is coming off the worst start of his young big league career after he allowed six runs and could not get out of the first inning against the Red Sox. Philadelphia will counter with right-hander Jake Arrieta (9-8, 3.25).

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

Toronto Blue Jays, Thomas Pannone