In hindsight, Toronto Blue Jays manager John Farrell said that perhaps the correct call would have been to pitch around the Baltimore Orioles batter.
But when that batter is Vladimir Guerrero, a notoriously bad-ball hitter, even that can be a dangerous proposition.
“I’m scared to even intentionally walk him,” came the rueful comment from Toronto pitcher Brett Cecil. “He might stick the bat out there and try to flip one.
“He’s a tough hitter when guys are on base.”
Cecil learned that the hard way with Guerrero providing the key hit in the sixth inning as the Orioles (58-85) would go on to record a 2-0 victory over the listless Blue Jays (72-73) on Friday night at Rogers Centre.
After the Blue Jays took three-of-four from the playoff-bound Boston Red Sox, only 13,918 fans showed up for the first game of a three-game set against the Orioles, the sad sacks of the American League.
Although the outcome wasn’t what Cecil had in mind, the left-hander was at least gratified by his own pitching performance.
Cecil (4-9) has now lost his last five decisions but on Friday he couldn’t have done much more to keep his team close.
Cecil struck out a season-high nine batters over the 7.2-innings he pitched, holding the Orioles to just seven hits.
He surrendered both the Baltimore runs, but only one was earned as the Toronto hitters were only able to muster three hits off Orioles starter Jeremy Guthrie.
“He had swing and miss type stuff tonight,” concurred Toronto manager John Farrell about the performance of Cecil.
Farrell himself was still ruminating over the developments in the sixth inning of a scoreless ballgame when a throwing error by Toronto second baseman Kelly Johnson allowed J.J. Hardy to reach second base.
Nick Markakis popped up for the second out which brought Guerrero, who came into the game having owned Cecil over his career, batting .800 (4-of-5) with four RBIs.
Guerrero already had one hit under his belt in the game and Farrell said he considered pitching around the Baltimore designated hitter and take his chances against Adam Jones, who was 2-of-14 lifetime against Cecil.
In the end the decision was made to allow Cecil to go after Guerrero and he made the Blue Jays pay, lifting a low curve ball into left field that scored Hardy to put Baltimore up 1-0.
It was the only run the Orioles would need.
“You could say that we shouldn’t have pitched to him,” Farrell said. “But in the end we were trying to pitch around him.”
Farrell said he was nervous to intentionally walk Guerrero given that Jones, the on-deck batter, is sitting on 23 home runs this season.
“The way Cecil was throwing he ball I had confidence that he’d retire [Guerrero]” Farrell said.
Toronto designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion hurt his left shoulder striking out in the seventh inning and was taken out of the game.
Farrell said he was still uncertain as to the extent of the injury.