It didn't take long for Brandon Morrow to realize something was wrong.
The Toronto Blue Jays starter had just delivered the seventh pitch of the game when he felt a pain in his side. After two more throws, he was done.
Morrow lasted just nine pitches after straining his left oblique muscle on Monday as the Washington Nationals defeated Toronto 6-3 in the opener of a three-game interleague series.
Morrow left in discomfort while facing a 2-1 count against Nationals rookie sensation Bryce Harper in the first, walking to the clubhouse unassisted after being checked out by trainers and manager John Farrell.
"I felt it on the first pitch to Harper," said Morrow, who was tagged with the loss. "I felt like a stabbing in my side when I threw it. I just put it out of my mind for the second pitch, just threw it like nothing happened, hoping it was nothing. Threw [the next] one and felt the same thing.
"Then of course I was thinking about it on the third pitch and wasn't able to deliver the ball very well."
Morrow (7-4) will be re-evaluated on Tuesday.
'I felt like a stabbing in my side when I threw [the pitch]. I just put it out of my mind for the second pitch, just threw it like nothing happened, hoping it was nothing. Threw [the next] one and felt the same thing.'—Blue Jays pitcher Brandon Morrow
"[The injury is] probably substantial in terms of what he's dealing with right now," Farrell said. "Just how he continued to tighten up after he came out of the game. He was in considerable pain. There will be further imaging, further testing in the morning."
Edwin Jackson (3-3) threw eight solid innings for the Nationals, giving up four hits and two earned runs.
Adam LaRoche hit a two-run homer, Rick Ankiel added a solo shot and Harper had three singles and a walk for the Nationals, who won their fourth in a row against a Toronto bullpen that was forced to use five pitchers in Morrow's absence.
Colby Rasmus and Yan Gomes homered for the Blue Jays.
Jackson departed after Edwin Encarnacion led off the ninth with a double.
"Just an unbelievable performance," Harper said of the Nats starter. "He had everything working for him, his fastball was good, his curveball, his changeup. He was really effective tonight."
Sean Burnett replaced Jackson and gave up a two-out, pinch-hit home run to Gomes before getting J.P. Arencibia to ground out to end the game.
Chad Beck came on for Morrow in the first and gave up a single to Harper to score Steve Lombardozzi, who was at second after a leadoff double.
"That's never happened to me before," Harper said of the delay during his at-bat. "That was kind of weird. It was kind of weird to go back up there and get into the zone again and get comfortable."
Charged with an error
Harper went to third when first baseman David Cooper was charged with an error on Ryan Zimmerman's hard-hit ball. Michael Morse followed up with a sacrifice fly to score Harper.
Beck, who has been closing with AAA Las Vegas and has usually been limited to one inning with the Jays, lasted 3 2-3 innings before being replaced by Luis Perez with two out in the fourth. Beck allowed three runs, two earned and after the game was returned to Las Vegas.
The Blue Jays called up left-handed pitchers Evan Crawford and Aaron Laffey and will make another move on Tuesday.
"I know what it does to your bullpen so I was sympathizing with [Farrell]," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. "Not a whole lot, but I was sympathizing with him."
The Blue Jays (31-30) got one back in the bottom of the first on the ninth homer of the season by Rasmus.
LaRoche hit his 11th home run of the campaign to make it 4-1 with two outs in the third after Harper walked.
The Nationals (36-23) scored once in the seventh after loading the bases on three singles, starting with a bunt down the third-base line by Lombardozzi.
Ian Desmond scored Lombardozzi with a two-out single against Jason Frasor, but the Nationals left the bases loaded.
Ankiel, who entered the game in the seventh to play centre field, hit his fourth homer of the season to lead off the eighth against Francisco Cordero.