TORONTO -- For a club that doesn’t boast a long history of no-hitters or perfect games, the Blue Jays have had their fair share of dominant outings by starting pitchers.
This list is already so stacked with elite performances that it excludes some of the better longer-tenured pitchers this organization has had, like Jimmy Key, Juan Guzman and Jim Clancy. There are also some hidden gems throughout the Blue Jays’ history, like right-hander Jesse Jefferson throwing 12 innings of one-run ball in a 2-1 win over the Red Sox in 1978.
Five starts stand above the rest, though, and it will be a tough list to crack in the coming years.
1) Morrow’s moment: Aug. 8, 2010, vs. Rays
There were injuries and inconsistencies throughout Brandon Morrow’s five years with the Blue Jays, but his pure talent was never in question. When Morrow was on, he was simply excellent, and that was never more on display than his moment of brilliance in 2010.
Morrow carried a no-hitter into the bottom of the ninth where heartbreak waited, as Evan Longoria singled with two outs to end the bid. That doesn’t change the quality of Morrow’s start, though, as he struck out 17 batters, falling just one shy of Roger Clemens’ club record for the Blue Jays. Morrow walked two batters and needed 137 pitches, his career high, to give Blue Jays fans what many consider to be one of the franchise’s greatest individual moments in the regular season.
2) Stieb gets his no-hitter, at last: Sept. 2, 1990, vs. Cleveland
Morrow’s near no-no stands atop the list, but Dave Stieb’s no-hitter in 1990 -- the only one in club history -- trails just inches behind. Aside from the club’s World Series wins a few years later, Stieb’s no-hitter against Cleveland on Sept. 2, 1990, was one of the biggest reliefs in Blue Jays history after the great right-hander had carried one into the ninth inning three times before, losing all three. The 1990 season was the final year that Stieb was pitching at full health and to the full extent of his abilities after being one of the league most dominant starters in the '80s, so this was a fitting moment to headline an excellent career.
3) The Rocket strikes out 18: Aug. 25, 1998, vs. Royals
Clemens could make a case for another spot or two on this list, but his club record of 18 strikeouts in 1998 was his very best. This came in an incredible stretch to close out the 1998 season, too, as The Rocket struck out 123 batters over just 86 2/3 innings with a 1.66 ERA through his 11 starts in August and September. He consistently pushed 130 pitches, which is the exact number he landed on against the Royals in his 18-strikeout shutout. While Clemens allowed three hits, he didn’t walk a batter as he picked up his 16th win in what would eventually become a 20-win season and would end with him winning his fifth American League Cy Young Award. The two seasons Clemens spent with the Blue Jays can be held up against the most dominant two-year stretches from any pitcher in MLB history.
4) The first glimpse of Doc Halladay: Sept. 27, 1998, vs. Tigers
No list is complete without Roy Halladay, and while he was known more for his reliability and consistency, there were of course some incredible peaks along the way. One of the most memorable was in 1998, when Halladay made his second of two starts as a rookie callup and dazzled. Like Stieb had done so many times before getting his no-hitter, Halladay held the Tigers hitless into the bottom of the ninth but surrendered a solo home run with two outs to Bobby Higginson. In classic Halladay fashion, he needed just 95 pitches to earn the complete-game victory. If that one pitch had stayed in the park, Halladay would rank even higher here, but this was a sign of things to come for one of the great pitchers of his generation.
5) Hentgen fans 14: May 3, 1994, vs. Royals
Pat Hentgen’s finest start with the Blue Jays came back in 1994, when the young right-hander struck out 14 Royals in a shutout win. Hentgen wasn’t known as a high-strikeout pitcher, necessarily, but he’d already posted a 10-strikeout start that April and had it all working on May 3. With two walks and two hits allowed, Hentgen needed 116 pitches to pull off the 1-0 win with a little help from a Joe Carter single that drove in Devon White.