NEW YORK -- The Blue Jays' bullpen was a major talking point during the offseason, and it took all of two games for it to become one during the regular season.
Toronto carried a 3-1 lead over the Yankees heading into the bottom of the eighth inning on Wednesday night, but the bullpen wasn't able to close things out. Every blown save is ugly, but the fashion in which this one came was particularly tough to take.
Left-handers Aaron Loup and Brett Cecil combined to record just one out while allowing three hits, two hit batters and an intentional walk. There also was a botched fielding play, and as a result three runs came around to score and the Blue Jays were sent to a 4-3 loss.
"We just imploded," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "Started with the wind-blown hit there and then we hit a couple of guys; we don't normally do that, and it just got away."
The inning started out harmlessly enough when pinch-hitter Chris Young hit a shallow popup to right field. Three players converged but nobody was able to get there in time as second baseman Devon Travis watched the ball drop over his shoulder.
Jacoby Ellsbury followed with a sharp single to center field, and Loup then proceeded to load the bases by hitting Brett Gardner with an inside fastball. That prompted a move for Cecil with the hope that his high strikeout rate would get the Blue Jays out of the jam.
Cecil did get one strikeout, but he also threw a wild pitch and hit Brian McCann to allow two runs to score. Another blow came when Cecil had a potential tailor-made double-play chopper bounce off his wrist and ricochet into shallow center field to allow the final run to score. The cold and misty conditions at Yankee Stadium certainly didn't help, but this was one the Blue Jays let slip away.
"It was just one of those things, you make a good pitch and it just dropped into the middle of no-man's land out there," Loup said. "On another day it might be a catch, an inning goes a different way, but tonight the ball bounced that way and you just move on and get ready for tomorrow."
There could be some overall concern with Cecil, who missed most of Spring Training with a sore shoulder. He returned for the final two weeks and was cleared to start the regular season, but it's clear that he's not quite up to speed.
Cecil sat at 87 mph with his fastball on Wednesday night and never got it above 88. Last season he typically threw anywhere from 91-93 mph.
"I feel good, but I have to keep reminding myself I'm about two weeks behind everybody else," Cecil said. "The feeling-great part, that's all there, but I think everything else is on its way up and not all there yet. ... But as far as feeling-wise, everything feels good, it feels great."