Results tagged ‘ Brett Cecil ’

Hafner makes good on Girardi’s hunch

Yankees manager Joe Girardi knows that he has to be careful with Travis Hafner. Injuries have plagued the slugger in recent years. Sometimes a manager gets a hunch. Saturday was just that kind of day. The Blue Jays were starting a lefthander, J.A. Happ, but aware that the right-handed portion of the designated hitter platoon, Ben Francisco, is struggling (.103 in 29 at-bats) Girardi chose to give the lefty-swinging Hafner a rare start against a southpaw.

How it turned out was just downright beautiful. All Hafner did was drive in four runs as the Yankees turned back the Blue Jays again, 5-4, behind another gritty effort from CC Sabathia. This was like old times for Travis and CC, former teammates at Cleveland. It was another victory due in large part to the newcomers with the Yankees this year; in this case Hafner and Vernon Wells, who drove in the other Yankees run.

Just as was the case in recent years of the likes of Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon, Raul Ibanez and Andruws Jones, among others, who thrived with the Yankees in their twilight years, Hafner and Wells have found a fountain of youth in the Bronx.

“This is a great place to play,” Girardi said. “It’s a great clubhouse. There are great expectations. Guys feed off that.”

It was quite an afternoon. Sabathia fell into a 3-0 hole, but the Yankees helped him climb out of it so that he ended up pitching through eight innings and improving his record to 4-2 despite yet another game when his stuff was not top shelf.

“I was all over the place in the early innings,” Sabathia said. “They just missed some balls that I left out over the middle of the plate.”

“He competes, that’s what he does,” Girardi said of Sabathia. “He has not been as sharp in April, but he has four victories, so I am not going to complain.”

Newly thrust into the starting catcher role with Francisco Cervelli out for six weeks with a right hand fracture, Chris Stewart had a rough time of it in the fourth inning. A passed ball and an error helped the Blue Jays to a gift run that gave Toronto the 3-0 lead.

Sabathia, still searching for some velocity on a fastball that rarely topped 90 miles per hour, had an unusual number of fly-ball outs in the early innings. Nobody was catching the ball Jose Bautista hit to start the fourth inning, however. It darted into the left field stands for his seventh home run.

Edwin Encarnacion, who had five home runs in his previous four games, followed with a single and advanced to second on a groundout. Stewart’s passed ball put Encarnacion at third base. He tried to score on Brett Lawrie’s flyout to right field, but Ichiro Suzuki’s laser-beam throw to the plate beat Encarnacion. Plate umpire Jeff Kellogg was prepared to call Encarnacion out, but the ball was dropped by Stewart, a costly error.

Fortunately for the Yankees, Happ got careless with the lead as he began the bottom of the fourth by walking Wells and Kevin Youkilis, who was back in the lineup after missing six games due to back stiffness.

Hafner lowered the boom and brought the Yankees even with his sixth home run, a three-run shot to right-center. He had never faced Happ before, but Hafner was a welcome addition to the batting order.

Lawrie picked up the RBI he lost in the fourth two innings later when he lined a home run to right field that put Toronto back in front.

Not for long, though, as Hafner struck again in the seventh. Righthander Esmil Rogers took over at that point and gave up a one-out double to Robinson Cano, who nearly didn’t get to second base before a remarkably strong and accurate by Bautista from the right field warning track. Wells tied the score with a single to center.

The Yankees stayed out of the double play by sending Wells as Youkilis grounded out to third base. Blue Jays manager John Gibbons brought in another lefthander, Brett Cecil, to face Hafner, who tripled off the glove of center fielder Rajai Davis. In the top of the inning, Brett Gardner made a fence-slamming catch off a similar drive by Bautista. It was the 13th career triple for Hafner and his third over the past six years. This was the first time since 2007 that Hafner has had a triple and a stolen base in the same season.

“Probably tiring,” Hafner said about what it felt like getting to third base. “You want to get some quality at-bats against a lefthander once in a while. It would be nice to get some starts, but I also know that they have my best interests at heart.”

Wanting to stay away from Mariano Rivera, who pitched in three of the previous four games, Girardi used Joba Chamberlain out of the bullpen in the ninth. He was touched for a couple of one-out singles but eventually slammed the door for his fifth career save and first since Sept. 21, 2010 at St. Petersburg, Fla.

The Yankees are now 13-5 since opening the season 1-4, 8-1 in games decided by two or fewer runs, 3-0 in one-run games and 13-1 when holding opponents to four runs or less. In addition, the Yankees are creating distance from the disappointing Jays, who are 9-16 and six games behind the 14-9 Yankees in the American League East. Toronto’s 11-28 (.282) record at Yankee Stadium is the worst for any team that has played at least 30 games in any current major league park.

No change for Hughes

It’s a good thing for the Yankees that veterans Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon have stepped up big time because the team is now faced with a problem regarding Phil Hughes. The righthander had to shut down a throwing session after only 20 pitches before Monday night’s game against the White Sox at Yankee Stadium.

The next step for Hughes is an examination by team doctors to determine if there is a medical reason is for his arm fatigue. He has been on the disabled list since April 15 with right shoulder inflammation. Monday was a decided blow for Hughes, who had a breakthrough season in 2010 with an 18-8 record.

“He just felt like there was nothing there when he threw,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “He said he felt like it did before.”

The Yankees had hoped for progress in Hughes’ condition by this time, but while it does not appear that he has suffered a setback it is clearly evident that he has made no progress. To this point, Hughes has reported no pain, but he is still unable to get any meaningful velocity in his fastball.

The Yankees monitored Hughes closely throughout the 2010 season and kept him on a tight pitch count. His 176 1/3 innings were 90 1/3 more than he had pitched the previous seasons, and he threw an additional 15 2/3 innings in the playoffs for a total of 192 innings.

Girardi said he detected a severe drop-off in the velocity of Blue Jays pitcher Brett Cecil last week at Toronto. Cecil was lights out (4-0) against the Yankees last season but was nowhere near as effective against them in last week’s start. Cecil also made a big jump in innings pitched from 93 1/3 innings in 2009 to 172 2/3 innings in 2010.

“Some guys have taken steps backward after a season of being extended,” Girardi said.

The Yankees can only hope this remains a temporary condition for Hughes. For the time being, they will continue to rely on Colon (1-1, 3.50 ERA), whose next start will be Wednesday night against the White Sox, and Garcia (1-0, 0.69 ERA), who will most likely start Friday night at the Stadium against the Blue Jays.

Colon comeback continues

The Yankees couldn’t have asked for a better performance from Bartolo Colon than the one he provided Wednesday night in their 6-2 victory over the Blue Jays.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi had said his main concern over Colon, who did not pitch at all in 2010 while recovering from knee and elbow injuries, was stamina. The skipper would have been satisfied with five decent innings from the beefy righthander, but Colon proved to have a fairly full tank and pitched into the seventh.

Making his first start since July 24, 2009 for the White Sox against the Tigers, Colon was filling in for Phil Hughes, disabled because of arm fatigue. Colon kept the Blue Jays off-balance with a lot of lateral movement on his fastball and slider and was sufficiently economic to keep his pitch count down.

The result was that Colon allowed two runs, five hits and two walks with seven strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings. The Yankees gave him an early comfort level by taking a 3-0 lead by the second inning against Toronto starter Brett Cecil, who was a Yankee killer last year (4-0). Colon gave a run back when he yielded a leadoff home run to Jays rookie catcher J.P. Arencibia in the second, then proceeded to mow Toronto hitters down to the tune of 12 in a row through the fifth.

Yunel Escobar ended Colon’s streak with an infield hit leading off the sixth, but Colon quickly emptied the bases again by getting Corey Patterson to ground into a double play. A base-running blunder by Arencibia came to Colon’s aid in the seventh inning when Toronto mounted its only sustained threat against the former American League Cy Young Award winner.

Edwin Encarnacion doubled with one out against Colon, who then walked Arencibia. Travis Snyder, who got the game-winning hit for the Jays Tuesday night, singled sharply to right field. Toronto third base coach Brian Butterfield threw up a stop sign to Encarnacion, but Arencibia failed to pick up the sign and kept running to third base where he made a very nice slide only to be tagged out when he stood up.

Yankees first baseman Mark Teixiera, who had a nice game at the plate (three doubles), took the cutoff from right fielder Nick Swisher, saw Arencibia’s gaffe and raced to third base. It proved a big play after Jayson Nix singled in a run off reliever David Robertson. The rally came up short, which allowed Colon to come up big.

Curtis doing ‘grander’ against lefties

One reason the Yankees signed Andruw Jones in the off-season to be their spare outfielder was for his right-handed bat. Right fielder Nick Swisher is a switch hitter, but center fielder Curtis Granderson and left fielder Brett Gardner both bat left-handed.

The idea of how to use Jones was against left-handed pitching and to allow one of the lefty-hitting outfielders to take a break. It might have seemed that Granderson, a .213 career hitter against left-handed pitching, would be the guy to sit, particularly since Gardner hit .252 against lefties last year.

But Granderson’s overall turnaround from mid-August last year has continued into 2011, and he was back in the lineup Wednesday night against Blue Jays lefthander Brett Cecil. Why not? Grandy has not been an easy out against left-handed pitching this year while Gardner has been struggling (.128 overall) out of the gate.

Granderson entered the game batting .333 with three of his five home runs in 15 at-bats against lefties this season and kept up the assault in his first at-bat when he tripled into the right field corner to drive in a run in the second inning.

One night after a tough loss, the Yankees put together some quality at-bats against Cecil, who had their number last year by going 4-0 against them as part of an 11-2 record against American League East clubs.

Much has been made about the fact that nearly two-thirds of the Yankees’ runs this year have come from home runs. This time, the Yankees showed off quality situational hitting to build a 5-1 lead against Cecil, who came out after the fifth inning.

The Yankees loaded the bases on one out in the first, and Robinson Cano got the run home with a slow grounder to first base. After Granderson’s triple, Derek Jeter made contact and grounded out to third to send Grandy home.

In the fifth, Swisher singled and went to third on Mark Teixeira’s second double of the game. Alex Rodriguez, back in the lineup from a left oblique injury, and Cano got the runs home on sacrifice flies.

But just to show that the Yankees could still produce the long ball, Granderson obliged by taking righthander Frank Francisco deep in the ninth inning for his sixth home run.

Vazquez comes up small

If Javier Vazquez was pitching Wednesday night for a spot on the Yankees’ post-season roster – and he almost certainly was – it was not an ideal audition in Toronto. The Yankees showed they placed value on the game by starting an 80-percent A-list lineup on the night after clinching a playoff berth.

Manager Joe Girardi decided to hold Andy Pettitte back to Friday night at Boston and handed the ball to Vazquez, who began the season in the rotation but eventually pitched himself into the second tier of the bullpen because of too many outings that resembled this last start. The Blue Jays jumped on Vazquez for seven runs and 10 hits, including three home runs, in 4 2/3 innings. Javy walked two batters, threw a wild pitch and had no strikeouts, but at least he did not hit any batters as he did in his previous appearance Sunday night when he plunked three Red Sox in a row.

Girardi still has decisions to make about his post-season staff, but it would appear the locks are starters CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett and relievers David Robertson, Joba Chamberlain, Boone Logan, Kerry Wood and Mariano Rivera. Assuming that the Yankees will go with an 11-man staff, that would leave two openings with the candidates being Vazquez, Chad Gaudin, Sergio Mitre, Dustin Moseley, Ivan Nova and Royce Ring.

Perhaps I am making a big assumption about Burnett, who has been horrid in the second half, but the Yankees will need four starters. There has been some good talk about Nova, but he is a rookie with no post-season experience. As inconsistent as A.J. has been, his track record is superior to the others, including Vazquez, who did not advance his case in the 8-4 loss to the Blue Jays.

There is a good chance the Yankees will take several looks this week at Ring, who spent most of the year at Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre but has big-league experience and would give Girardi a second left-handed option out of the pen along with Logan, an option most managers would love. Ring retired the only batter he faced Wednesday night. The most impressive inning from an auditioning pitcher was by Mitre, who struck out the side in the eighth.

Vazquez needed to prove he can be an effective innings soaker but was little more than a punching bag and put the Yankees in a 7-0 hole in the fifth. Like many other games this September, the Yankees had to go uphill throughout the evening.

Toronto lefthander Brett Cecil shut them down for five innings before making the mistake of hitting Robinson Cano with a pitch after Alex Rodriguez had homered leading off the sixth. That’s 14 seasons of at least 30 homers and 100 RBI for A-Rod. The Yankees tagged Cecil for two more runs, but the rally died on a double play. The Jays hung on to improve Cecil’s record against the Yankees this year to 4-0 with a 2.67 ERA, which is Roy Halladay territory.

The loss ruined the Yankees’ opportunity to move ahead of the Rays in the American League East standings. Tampa Bay maintains a one-game edge in the loss column.

No hangover lineup for Yanks

Yankees manager Joe Girardi kept good his pledge to go for the American League East title. The starting lineup Wednesday night at Toronto was proof positive that clinching a post-season berth was not an end all.

It was not your usual hangover lineup on games following a clincher when regulars normally are on the bench and backups fill most of the slots. The only regulars sitting were catcher Jorge Posada and outfielders Curtis Granderson and Brett Gardner, primarily because the Blue Jays started a lefthander, Brett Cecil.

The only difference from prior plans was to skip Andy Pettitte and go with Javier Vazquez on the mound. Pettitte was pushed back to Friday night at Fenway Park. A.J. Burnett will start Saturday against the Red Sox. Girardi was non-committal beyond that saying only “Mr. TBA,” as in “To Be Announced,” will start Sunday’s season finale.

There was also no indication from the manager about a post-season rotation except that CC Sabathia will definitely start Game 1. Girardi said he could not be more forthcoming because it is still not known who their opponent will be in the Division Series. That won’t be decided until the AL East standings are settled. They will play one of the other two division winners, the Twins (Central) or the Rangers (West), because teams in the same division cannot oppose each other in the ALDS.

The Yankees have an uphill climb to finish first in the East and have a shot at home-field advantage throughout the ALDS and the AL Championship Series. They were a game behind Tampa Bay in the loss column entering play Wednesday night. The Yankees will have an open date Thursday while the Rays, who ended their home schedule against the Orioles, open a four-game set against the Royals in Kansas City.

Tampa Bay won the season series against the Yankees, 10-8, so the Bombers essentially need to run the table and hope the Rays lost at least two of the next five games to get back into first place by season’s end. It is not out of the question, but it will not be a cakewalk, either.

At least they are giving it a good try.

Rotation remains inconsistent

Obscured in the Yankees’ eight-game winning streak, their longest of the season, was their mediocre starting pitching. That streak ended Sunday at Yankee Stadium with a 7-3 loss to the Blue Jays, but the mediocre starting pitching continued.

Phil Hughes carried on the disturbing trend on a day when the only good thing that happened to the Yankees was that the Rays lost again in Baltimore and remained 2 games behind the Bombers in the American League East.

During the winning streak, Yankees starters combined for a 4.53 ERA and averaged 5 2/3 innings per start. In three of the games, the starters didn’t go long enough to qualify for a winning decision. Take away CC Sabathia’s two starts, and the starters’ ERA was 5.28. Remember, four of those games were against one of the weakest offensive teams in the majors, the Athletics.

“Even when you’re playing well, you can always find things that you can do better,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “If we were winning games 2-1, you could say that we’re not hitting. But it’s true that our starting pitching has been somewhat inconsistent.”

Hughes was mistake-prone Sunday, serving up gopher balls on a pair of 0-and-2 pitches, cardinal sins for a pitcher. He tried to muscle a fastball past Vernon Wells in the first inning and then watched the ball sail over the center field wall. In the third, a wayward cutter to .215-hitting Aaron Hill ended up in the left field stands.

“Two 0-2 pitches cost him the game,” Girardi said. “Make mistakes to a club that hits home runs, and you’re usually going to lose the game.”

“I made bad pitches to a team that pounds mistakes,” Hughes said.

The Jays went deep three times against Hughes, who also gave up a home run to John Buck on a first-pitch cutter in the sixth, and lead the majors with 208 home runs. Hughes has allowed 22 home runs this year, 19 at the Stadium.

At 16-7, he remains tied with the Rays’ David Price for the second highest victory total among AL pitchers (behind CC’s 19), but Hughes’ record since the All-Star break has dropped him out of the Cy Young Award discussion. His second half got off to a rough start when he was the losing pitcher in the All-Star Game that cost the AL home-field advantage in the World Series. He is 5-5 with a 5.47 ERA since after going 11-2 with a 3.65 ERA in the first half.

Hughes is not alone. The second half has not been kind to fellow starters A.J. Burnett (3-5, 6.02 ERA) and Javier Vazquez (3-2, 6.10 ERA), and Andy Pettitte has been disabled for most of it.

For the most part, the Yankees have been able to bail out the starters with their bats, but despite Alex Rodriguez’s return they failed to muster much of an offense against Toronto lefthander Brett Cecil, who is 8-2 against AL East competition this year, including 3-0 with a 2.54 ERA against the Yankees.

A-Rod had two singles – one a leg hit, a positive sign that his calf has healed – and drove in a run. Brett Gardner continued to do good things as a leadoff hitter by reaching base three times and driving in a run. He is batting .333 with a .458 on-base percentage at the top of the order replacing Derek Jeter, who continues to struggle in the 2-hole and is down to .264.

The Orioles, who have been rejuvenated under former Yankees manager Buck Showalter (19-13), come to town Monday to open a three-game series.

Hughes keeps innings down

The Yankees didn’t have to worry about limiting Phil Hughes’ innings Wednesday night at Toronto. He did that to himself.

Hughes failed to get through the fourth inning in his briefest outing of the season, although he did throw a full complement of pitches with 102 in a 6-3 loss to the Blue Jays. A 30-pitch first inning set the tone for Hughes, who fell to 15-6 and had his ERA climb to 4.12.

Vernon Wells had three of the six hits off Hughes, who also walked five batters. Wells got three-quarters of the way to a cycle with a triple in the first inning, a two-run home run in the third and an infield single in the fourth for his fourth RBI of the game. In his fourth and final at-bat in the sixth, Wells flied out to the warning track in left field.

The strangest hit for Wells was the home run, his 23rd of the year. A high fastball from Hughes on a 0-2 count was well above the letters and would have been called a ball but Wells somehow got around on it and drove it into the left field seats.

Even though he had six strikeouts, Hughes didn’t seem to have finish-off stuff getting to two strikes on 18 hitters only to have 12 avoid strike three by making contact. The usual offensive support for Hughes – the best in the majors at 7.93 runs per start – was not there Tuesday night.

A two-run home run by Marcus Thames, who was 5-for-8 (.625) with a double, two home runs and four RBI in the series – was the best the Yankees could do against Blue Jays starter Brett Cecil, who pitched eight innings. The Yankees rallied with two outs in the ninth and got another run but left the bases loaded.

Other than Thames, the other positive for the Yankees was the bullpen-saving work of Javier Vazquez, who gave up only one run, on a home run by Aaron Hill, in 4 1/3 innings, and got his fastball back up into the 90s.

The loss foiled the Yankees’ opportunity to take over first place in the American League East as they remained tied with the Rays, who lost in the afternoon to the Angels. Thursday will be a welcomed day off for the Yankees, their first in three weeks.

It will give Nick Swisher more time to recover from a swollen left knee that forced him to be scratched from the lineup Wednesday night. Swish fouled a ball off the knee in the seventh inning Tuesday night.

The Yankees’ next stop will be Chicago, which is a return home for manager Joe Girardi but one that could prove uncomfortable. With the recent retirement of Lou Piniella, speculation as to his replacement as Cubs manager has focused on Girardi, an Illinois native, Northwestern University graduate and former Cubs player. Joe is in the last year of his contract as Yankees manager, fueling speculation even more.

When I was in Cooperstown late last month, I spoke with Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg, another top candidate who is manager of the Cubs’ Triple A Iowa affiliate. Ryno told me that he has received no indication that he is a favorite for the position, which many people believe. Out of deference to Piniella, Sandberg did not want to elaborate, but he added that anyone who thinks he’s a lead-pipe cinch for the job is mistaken.

Girardi told reporters the other day that he will answer media queries in Chicago before Friday night’s game and leave it at that. Joe has said he is very happy with the Yankees and won’t let the Cubs talk be a distraction.

Plenty of blame to go around

The easy thing to do would be to blame the Yankees’ 6-1 loss to the Blue Jays Friday on the three right-handed relievers who couldn’t get the job done and continue to make manager Joe Girardi long for the hopeful return of Alfredo Aceves, who is on the disabled list because of a back ailment.

Joba Chamberlain, who suffered his second blown save of the season in the eighth, and David Robertson and Chan Ho Park, who were torched for five runs in the 11th, certainly had a hand in letting Toronto end a five-game losing streak, but this game would have gotten nowhere near extra innings if the Yankees hit the ball just a little.

They managed only five hits, all singles, in 11 innings, and none of them had anything to do with the run they scored. A return to form by A.J. Burnett had that run hold up for seven innings before Chamberlain opened the gates for the Blue Jays to come back.

Toronto starter Brett Cecil had been almost as bad as Burnett lately with three straight losses and a 9.19 ERA in 15 2/3 innings. Yet the lefthander spun off the ropes repeatedly despite six walks in six innings. The Yankees’ first two batters of the game walked, and an infield out and a fly ball by Thursday’s hero, Alex Rodriguez, made it 1-0.

The third inning proved the killer for the Yanks. After a leadoff single by Derek Jeter, Cecil walked Nick Swisher on four pitches and Mark Teixeira on five. A-Rod and Robinson Cano awaited and a huge inning could have been expected. Instead, Cecil came up huge by striking both of them out and then getting Jorge Posada on a ground ball.

“We had a great opportunity in the third but didn’t cash in,” Girardi said. “That was the difference in the game.”

Toronto was doing a pretty good imitation by stranding 11 base runners in regulation, but this is a lineup whose 5- and 6-hole hitters, Adam Lind and Aaron Hill, are toeing the Mendoza line. Yet their hits off Chamberlain with two out in the eighth manufactured the tying run.

Joba, whose ERA is 5.40, caught a big break when left fielder Brett Gardner banged into the left field wall to rob Alex Gonzalez of an extra-base hit. Chamberlain celebrated that by walking Juan Bautista after having been ahead 0-2 in the count. Joba got Vernon Wells on a fly to right, then surrendering a ground single to center by Lind and a well-struck single to left by Hill.

Chamberlain heard plenty of boos as he came off the field at the end of the inning, and the crowd had more in store for Robertson and Park when matters got gross in the 11th. Robertson allowed three hits and an intentional walk, and all four runners scored. Park walked Wells with the bags full forcing in a run and gave up a bases-clearing triple to DeWayne Wise, batting average .211.

“I don’t think I am struggling,” Park told reporters after the game as if a 6.66 ERA isn’t a pretty good indication. He is not alone above 6.00 in ERA. Robertson’s went to 6.15.

As unsightly as those figures are, it bears repeating that there would not have been so tender a margin for error if the Yankees didn’t display such an offensive offense. And it is not a one-game thing. They are hitless in their past 19 at-bats with runners in scoring position and are 2-for-25 (.080) in those situations on the homestand. They went down in order the last four innings and after a one-out single in the eighth by Nick Swisher made 14 consecutive outs.

Blame could not be confined to the bullpen.

Back in the real AL East

After a 6-1 homestand against two last-place teams, the Yankees were thrust back into the American League East rumble Friday night under the dome of Rogers Centre. This time the numbers 6-1 reflected the final score that did not go the Yankees’ way.

It was the Yankees’ first up-close look at Toronto, the latest point in a season that these teams faced each other for the first time. The Blue Jays have been bludgeoning the ball, and Friday night was no different. A.J. Burnett was reached for three home runs, two by league leader Juan Bautista, one of the surprise stories of the year.

The two bombs, which raised his season total to 18, was part of a perfect night for Bautista, who also walked and doubled, scored three runs and drove in three. Bautista never hit more than 16 home runs in a season, which he did in 2006 with the Pirates. Last year, he hit 13, but 10 came in September and October. Bautista was just as powerful the first two months of this year as he was the last two months of 2009.

The other Toronto home run was by Edwin Encarnacion, the 9-hole batter who is batting .210 but has eight home runs. The Jays have a few guys handing around the Mendoza line – Lyle Overbay .224, Adam Lind .218, Aaron Hill .198 – but they are hitting the long ball. Toronto’s 94 home runs lead the AL by a 17-jake margin over the runner-up Red Sox. By contrast, the Yankees have 61 home runs, none Friday night.

Burnett has a history of success at Rogers Centre with an overall record of 22-10 there, but it was 22-8 before he returned there wearing a Yankees uniform. He is 0-2 with a 7.24 ERA in two starts for the Yankees there this year and last.

Lefthander Brett Cecil, a Maryland native who grew up a Yankees fan and admirer of Andy Pettitte, stared over his glove for eight innings and allowed one tainted run and five hits with one walk and five strikeouts. The Yankees might have been shut out if Toronto center fielder Vernon Wells hadn’t played Chad Moeller’s flare to center from a single into a double. Moeller eventually scored from third base on a double play.

This was a much different Cecil than the Yankees saw last year when they tagged the lefthander for 10 earned runs, 16 hits including three home runs, and eight walks in eight innings for an 11.25 ERA. Cecil is now 6-2 with a 3.43 ERA and the top winner on an impressive rotation that includes two other five-game winners, Shaun Marcum and Ricky Romero, who will start Saturday.

The Jays’ problem of late has been closing games. They blew two ninth-inning leads to Tampa Bay earlier this week. Jason Frasor had a five-run cushion in the ninth and withstood a leadoff walk to preserve the victory. The final out was a fly to left by Robinson Cano, who also struck out twice and fouled out as his 17-game hitting streak ended.

Toronto’s 10-9 record against AL East teams features a 6-0 mark against the Orioles, so the Jays have feasted off Baltimore pitching as much as the Yankees, who definitely had a wakeup call Friday night. They are back in the real AL East, not for what passes for it these days at Camden Yards.

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