When you are fortunate when your fastball breaks the 90-mile-an-hour threshold, getting burned by the home run is going to be a way a life when you make a mistake.
Such is life for Brett Cecil whose otherwise solid outing against the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday night was marred by a long ball he served up to Derek Norris.
The Toronto Blue Jays left-hander only allowed five hits while striking out a season-best eight batters over six innings of work, but one of those hits was a two-run homer to Norris in the second inning that provided Oakland with a 2-0 lead.
The A’s would carry a 2-1 lead into the seventh inning where the Toronto bullpen imploded, allowing five runs off four hits that secured Oakland a 7-2 victory in the first of a three-game series at Rogers Centre.
It is becoming a familiar story for the 26-year-old left-hander, who has been touched up for eight home runs in his seven starts this year.
Cecil has now allowed a home run in 15 of his last 18 starts dating back to last season. In five of those outings opponents have stroked two or more homers.
With his diminished velocity on his fastball, allowing home runs is something that the Blue Jays say they have come to accept from their 26-year-old.
"As long as he doesn’t walk people in front of the home runs you can live with the home runs," Toronto manager John Farrell said.
For Cecil to be successful, he needs to mix up his array of pitches and keep the ball down in the strike zone.
For most of Tuesday night he did just that against the A’s.
"The last two outings, in New York and here tonight, he’s not trying to throw his fastball as hard, which allows him to leverage the ball downhill and pitch to the bottom of the strike zone a little bit more frequently," Farrell said. "But Norris jumped on a first-pitch in that at-bat for the two-run homer."
Otherwise, Farrell felt Cecil had a quality outing.
Brandon Inge singled to centrefield before Norris launched his third home run of the season in that second inning.
Both right-handed hitters were batting one-two to begin the seventh inning, the reason why Farrell said he decided to go to the bullpen, even though Cecil had thrown just 94 pitches and appeared fresh.
Cecil had just struck out the side in the sixth.
"I told John I thought I had another inning in me.," Cecil said. "But with the righties coming up and one of them being the one that did the damage to me, it’s understandable."
The move backfired when reliever Chad Beck, after retiring both Inge and Norris, surrendered a two-out double to Brandon Hicks.
Jemile Weeks would follow with a run-scoring triple opening the floodgates to a five-run uprising that sealed Oakland’s victory.
J.A. Happ, the starter the Blue Jays obtained in a trade last week who has yet to be slotted into the starting rotation, then came on to allow three of the runs, walking two Oakland batters and allowing two hits.
The Blue Jays have now fallen four games back in the race to secure the second wild card spot in the A.L.
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