Jays drop rubber match to Pirates
Brett Cecil deserved better in his first major-league start since April 20.
The Toronto Blue Jays' fielders misplayed seemingly harmless fly balls Thursday as the Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the Toronto Blue Jays 6-2 to win the rubber match of their three-game interleague series.
In his return from triple-A Las Vegas, Cecil (1-3) was charged with eight hits and six runs in 6 1/3 innings.
But some of those hits were balls that should have been caught in a poor defensive effort around the left-hander. The most damaging incident was when Lyle Overbay's sixth-inning popup behind third turned into a double in a mix-up between third baseman Jose Bautista and left-fielder Corey Patterson.
Bautista, who has spent most of the season playing right field, was under the ball and didn't seem to hear Patterson calling for it.
"Jose didn't hear him to give ground and let him come through and make the catch," manager John Farrell said. "[Patterson] came after it aggressively and didn't take his eye off the ball to see where the infielder was and in the end they collided and ball dropped in.
"That's the outfielder's ball coming in. I don't think Corey at the time saw Jose seemingly camped underneath it. That's where the communication has to be made with clarity."
Patterson agreed with his manager's view of the dropped ball.
"I was trying to make a play," the left-fielder said. "Apparently, talking to a couple of teammates, he was camped under the ball. I didn't know. I couldn't take the chance of looking at him and him looking at me. I've done that one or two times in the outfield and the ball dropped in the gap.
"I called for it. I don't know if he heard me or not."
It got worse. Ronny Cedeno's hit eluded new right-fielder Thames and fell in the middle of the warning track for a double that brought Overbay across the plate. Wood followed with his third homer of the season for a 5-2 lead.
Farrell stood behind his decision to move Bautista to the infield.
"Jose's experienced at third base," manager John Farrell said. "And this isn't dependent on Jose. It's to say there was not the clarity of communication that there needs to be."
Cecil wouldn't put all the blame on the fielders around him.
"I think I pitched a lot better than the line showed," Cecil said. "It shouldn't happen but we're all men here and guys make mistakes. I've still got to make pitches after that and I just didn't make the right ones."
Brandon Wood hit a two-run homer in the three-run sixth inning and right-hander Jeff Karstens pitched a five-hitter over seven innings for the Pirates.
Karstens (6-4) held the Blue Jays to two runs on five hits, including homers by J.P. Arencibia and Yunel Escobar in the fifth inning. Karstens had 15 ground-ball outs and used only 88 pitches as he walked one and struck out two.
"The way Karstens pitched down in the zone all night, pitched ahead in the count and was very efficient, we were in disadvantaged counts pretty much the entire time," said Farrell. "Except for two swings that's about all we could put together tonight."
Cecil was making his first major-league start since he gave up five runs in a loss to the New York Yankees to drop to 1-2 with a 6.86 earned-run average.
The 15-game winner in 2010 was sent Las Vegas to regain his velocity and his confidence. In 12 starts there he was 8-2 with a 5.26 earned-run average.
"Cecil showed improved overall stuff from April," Farrell said. "It's clear that he's gained some arm strength in his time in Vegas. With the exception of the change-up that he left up in the zone to Wood, I thought he made some decent pitches.
"Obviously our outfield defence didn't help him out in the sixth inning."
Cecil was pleased with the velocity of his pitches on Thursday. "I was pretty happy, it was a little bit more than I thought," he said. "I know down in Vegas I was starting off games with an 89 and 90 and I had a little bit more on the ball tonight, so I'm really happy with that."
Alex Presley led off the game for the Pirates (41-39) with a triple to left-centre and he scored on Andrew McCutchen's one-out ground out to third.
Toronto (40-42) could not take advantage of runners on first and third with none out in the bottom of the first after Escobar and Eric Thames singled.
Overbay, who played first base with the Blue Jays for five seasons, was booed by some fans. The veteran made a nice play on Bautista's grounder and threw home to catch Escobar trying to score. Adam Lind then grounded into a double play.
The Pirates scored another run in the fifth. Josh Harrison reached second on a double. Michael McKenry sacrificed Harrison to third and Presley brought him home with a sacrifice fly to left.
Cecil was replaced after McCutchen hit a one-out double that hit the base of the wall in right-centre. Octavio Dotel took over and allowed a run-scoring single to Matt Diaz.