Cecil improved to 8-2 against the American League East this season -- an impressive fact, considering Toronto's fourth-place position in the standings and its desire for a stopper in the rotation against the league's big guns. That role may be solidified with Cecil, who has caught a groove since mid-August and seems to save his best for the team from the Bronx.
The Jays hit three home runs -- two of them coming on 0-2 counts -- off Yankees starter Phil Hughes, sending the 16-game winner out after six innings. They also made some fine defensive plays to back up Cecil, who allowed three runs on seven hits in 6 1/3 innings in front of 47,737 on a bright afternoon at Yankee Stadium.
"It helps and it hurts to see these guys a lot, because they see you a lot," Cecil said. "But I've seen them, and as along as I keep making pitches when it matters and get double plays, everything will hopefully end up the right way for me."
Cecil looked strong again for the fourth straight start and lowered his ERA to 2.24 in 10 starts against the AL East this season. The only other pitcher to beat the Yankees three times is Mariners ace Felix Hernandez.
"This kid has pitched well all year," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said. "He's made only a couple bad outings all year, right from Spring Training. He's 8-2 against the East -- that's pretty good."
The Jays got on the board with a two-run homer by Vernon Wells in the first, a line-drive shot to center field for his 24th of the season. Aaron Hill followed with a two-run home run to left field in the third. Both blasts came on 0-2 offerings from Hughes, who also allowed a home run to John Buck in the sixth.
It was the second time this season Hughes has allowed three home runs in a start to Toronto.
"Those are the two worst pitches I made in the game," said Hughes of the first two home runs. "This team pounces on mistakes, and that's what they did today."
Hill had to leave the game in the ninth inning with a sore right knee after legging out an infield single.
"It's fine," he said. "I'll be all right, we'll see how it feels tomorrow."
"We know [Hughes] pounds the strike zone," Hill added. "He's had our number this year and we're lucky to take advantage of some balls when he got ahead of us. You take what you can get."
As a rookie last season, Cecil went 0-1 with an 11.25 ERA in two starts against the Yankees. But he credits maturity for his turnaround this year -- not just against teams in the division, but overall.
"I'm not overreacting when somebody gets a base hit, or I give up a walk or a home run," Cecil said. "I definitely feel comfortable against all of those teams."
Case and point could be traced to Sunday, when Cecil allowed leadoff baserunners in four of his six innings, but managed to avoid letting a big inning sink him. He induced 12 ground balls and got two key double plays.
The left side of Toronto's infield looked especially sharp, with shortstop John McDonald a key figure in both double plays and third baseman Jose Bautista contributing two nifty putouts on hard ground balls with in-between hops. In the first, he dove to his right to stop a hard grounder by Alex Rodriguez to end the inning.
"Except for this trip, we've played pretty good defense all year," Gaston said.
Gaston leaves Yankee Stadium for the final time with a managerial victory, but he didn't want to spend much time reflecting.
"I know this was the last road trip I made before I got fired the first time," Gaston joked. "That comes back to mind."