One pitch helps undo Cecil against Tigers

One pitch helps undo Cecil against Tigers

One pitch helps undo Cecil against Tigers
TORONTO -- Brett Cecil has settled into his role in the Blue Jays' starting rotation, but can't seem to shake a recent string of bad luck.

In addition to a lack of run support, Cecil entered the weekend series against Detroit with his last two outings spoiled by just one pitch.

That happened again on Sunday afternoon, as Cecil recorded his fifth quality start of the year but was undone by a three-run homer off the bat of Jhonny Peralta en route to a 4-1 loss to the Tigers at Rogers Centre.

"I'm not going to change anything," said Cecil, who lowered his ERA to 5.56. "Just keep doing what I'm doing. Wins will come. More importantly, I just need to keep my team in the game. That's all I can do."

The home runs have become an ongoing trend this season for Cecil. He has allowed just eight runs in his past three outings -- but all of them came via a homer.

Cecil has now allowed a total of nine home runs in eight starts this year and 16 in his past 19 starts overall. Despite being susceptible to the quick-strike offense, he has managed to limit the opposition to three runs or fewer in all but two of his eight outings in 2012.

Despite the recent 0-3 record, there have been plenty of positives to take away from the string of quality starts. The most noticeable difference between Cecil now and where he was at this point last year has been his ability to consistently locate fastballs down in the zone.

Last year -- and all the way through this season's Spring Training -- that proved to be a problematic feat to accomplish. But the "pound down" motto the Blue Jays' pitching staff tries to live by has been showing itself more frequently in Cecil's arsenal.

The end result has seen the number of runs go down and the number of strikeouts go up. Cecil now has 15 strikeouts in his past 12 2/3 innings and is averaging 8.1 per nine frames this season.

"The fact that he has been able to establish [himself] down in the strike zone and -- when he's on -- by design, able to elevate his fastball a couple of times, [he can get] some swing and miss strikeouts up," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said.

"He forces the hitter to look down in the strike zone. The pitches up become a little bit more of an element of surprise, or by design, by chase -- and that has been a large part of the increase in strikeouts."

The Blue Jays are willing to live with Cecil's tendency to surrender home runs, as long as he is able to limit the damage. That wasn't the case in the second inning against Detroit, as Cecil began the frame with a walk to Delmon Young and then a double to Ryan Raburn.

Peralta -- who later added a solo home run in the ninth inning -- followed and after falling behind in the count 0-2, eventually worked it full. Detroit's infielder fouled off a series of tough pitches before finally connecting on a hanging curveball and sending it over the wall in left field for his seventh homer of the season.

"With a crooked number on the board, yeah," Farrell said when asked if the multi-run homers have been the biggest issue so far for Cecil. "Whether it was a three-run homer by Andruw Jones in New York, a home run the other night against Oakland, the one again today.

"The old adage is solo home runs aren't going to beat you, it's what happens prior. The walk contributed, but I thought he threw a number of good pitches that were borderline and he didn't get the call on a few occasions. But still, three runs over six-plus innings I thought he did a good job here today."

The Blue Jays were unable to generate much offense against Detroit right-hander Doug Fister, who was able to cruise through most of his outing.

Fister's lone blemish occurred in the first inning. He surrendered a leadoff single to outfielder Rajai Davis, who later stole second base and advanced to third on an errant throw by catcher Gerald Laird. Davis would eventually score on a groundout by Colby Rasmus. But from that point on, Toronto was unable to execute in key situations.

"I thought he kept them off balance with his slow stuff," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said of Fister, who allowed just one run over eight innings. "I thought he really pitched an effective game, used both sides of the plate, mixed his pitches and kept them off balance."

The loss meant Toronto failed to pick up its first three-game series sweep over the Tigers since September 2003. The Blue Jays will now embark on a 10-game road trip after finishing their most recent homestand with a 3-3 record.

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.