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Blue Jays-Pirates Preview

Brandon Morrow is seeking consistency and the ability to pitch late into games, which are traits his next opponent has portrayed bullheadedly in his short MLB career.

Toronto's struggling right-hander might pay particularly close attention to the habits of sturdy Gerrit Cole on Friday night in Pittsburgh as the Blue Jays and Pirates open a three-game series.

Morrow (1-2, 6.04 ERA) didn't allow a hit but walked a career-high eight to yield four runs in 2 2-3 innings of Saturday's 7-6 home defeat to Boston, tagging him with the loss. In his last three starts, he's made it though just 11 1-3 innings and walked 14.

"I was all over the place for a lot of it," Morrow told the team's official website. "It's not a good feeling when you can take the blame for the game and put it squarely on your shoulders. I came in with one goal, and that was to pitch late into the game and keep us in it. I let down the team in a big way."

He made it though seven innings in his only career start against Pittsburgh on June 29, 2011, when he held the Pirates to a run on four hits while walking three and earning the win in a 2-1 victory.

Cole (2-2, 3.18) has been far more consistent, making it through at least six innings in each of his five starts. The second-year pitcher hasn't issued more than three walks and has never failed to make it through five in 26 career starts, including the playoffs.

He's allowed two runs on 12 hits in 15 innings in his last two outings, though he took the loss in a 1-0 defeat in St. Louis on April 25. Cole's been given just five runs of support in his last three starts.

"Does it hurt, sting a little more, when you do everything you can, leave it all on the field, and don't get results? Yeah, it hurts," Cole told the team's official website after the loss to the Cardinals.

He's never faced Toronto but went 2-1 with a 1.77 ERA while allowing a .171 batting average against the American League last season.

Pittsburgh (10-18) dropped both games of Thursday's doubleheader in Baltimore and has now lost three in a row and 10 of 12. The Pirates are batting .217 and averaging 2.8 runs during the slump.

"We're still looking for that big hit," manager Clint Hurdle said after a 5-1 loss in Game 1.

They got a few in a 6-5 loss in the second game but blew a 4-0 lead. Ike Davis went 2 for 4 to snap an 0-for-19 slump, while second baseman Neil Walker went 2 for 2 with three walks to end an 0-for-12.

Toronto (13-15) avoided a sweep in Kansas City with Thursday's 7-3 victory. The Blue Jays have lost six of eight, but offense hasn't been the problem as they've managed 5.3 runs in that time. A team ERA of 6.43 has largely spoiled that run production.

The bullpen has a 7.96 ERA and .312 opponents' average in that time, though left-hander Aaron Loup closed the door with 2 1-3 scoreless innings Thursday.

Jose Bautista went 1 for 4 to extend his hitting streak to 11 games, while third baseman Brett Lawrie went 2 for 4 and is 8 for 17 in four games after batting .151 in his first 23.

Left fielder Melky Cabrera got the night off after getting hit in the left shin Wednesday, but manager John Gibbons said he should be available in Pittsburgh.

The Pirates are 15-7 in interleague play since the start of last season.

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