Brett Cecil Hit Hard In Return; Blue Jays Lose Series Finale To Pirates

Tonight marked the anticipated return of Brett Cecil to the mound for the Blue Jays, but it didn’t go quite as well as planned, with the Pirates spoiling the otherwise happy occasion by hitting Cecil hard, dealing the lefty and the Blue Jays a 2-6 loss to take the series 2 game to 1.

The best compliment you could give to Cecil tonight is that he didn’t pitch quite as poorly as the stats showed, and the numbers weren’t pretty: Cecil went 6.1 innings, allowing 6 runs on 8 hits and 3 walks while striking out 6. Two of the runs came off of a homer from eternal-prospect Brandon Wood in the 6th, and there was a bit of a mis-communication over at 3rd base during that inning that perhaps cost Cecil an out. This being said, just because this is his first game back, it doesn’t mean it’s time to make excuses – Cecil didn’t look good today, even if he pitched better than it looked. He needed 100 pitches before being removed in the 7th, and was generally pretty hittable with his location. The walks didn’t look particularly great either, and this was the problem that cost him the most trouble besides his velocity to begin with.

It’s not to say Cecil didn’t look good at times, though. He did show a fair bit of life on his curveball today, stopping a couple of Pirates batters in their tracks. I think it’s going to take a couple of starts before Cecil regains the feel of pitching in the MLB – with his velocity back to a manageable rate, I’m not too worried for his long-term performance. It wasn’t the best outing he had on the mound today, but he’ll get better.

The offense, on the other hand, was quiet for the 2nd night in a row. Pirates starter Jeff Karstens allowed just 2 runs on 5 hits through 7 innings, and the Jays just couldn’t muster much against another pitcher on a breakout campaign. Both of the bluebirds’ runs came on the long ball in the 5th inning with the team down 0-2: JP Arencibia starting things off with a solo shot for his 12th of the year, and Yunel Escobar followed with his 9th to tie the ball game. The Blue Jays tried something new today with the offense, batting Edwin Encarnacion at DH in the 5th spot; it didn’t work out, however, as Jose Bautista, Adam Lind, and E5 all recorded 0-fers.

For Arencibia, however, this is hopefully the beginning of another hot streak. I’d say that so far, the rookie catcher has come exactly as advertised: a streaky hitter with lots of power, prone to prolonged slumps. This marks his 2nd home run in the last 3 days; I know he’s likely playing with a thumb injury right now, and hopefully the All-Star break will give him a chance to heal up and continue to flex his power bat in the last half of the season.

The other strong point for the Blue Jays – although it matter little today – was the bullpen, who has put things together a little bit lately, despite spots of inconsistency. Octavio Dotel, Marc Rzepczynski and Shawn Camp produced 2.2 innings of 1 hit ball today, but it all came in a low-leverage situation with the Jays down by several runs.

With that, the Blue Jays have had a rude awakening home to Rogers Centre, losing yet another interleague series. It won’t get any easier going forward as interleague play continues, as the Philadelphia Philles – particularly Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee – now loom over the weekend. Neither will pitch tomorrow though, as Ricky Romero will get the call in the Canada Day matchup against Kyle Kendrick, in the start of arguably the most anticipated series of the year for the Blue Jays.

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