OAKLAND, Calif. (AP)—The Toronto Blue Jays are headed back from the West Coast with the AL’s best record, its most productive offense and almost too many good starting pitchers.
The Oakland Athletics have the league’s second-worst record, a miserable offense, no proven starters—and little reason to think this rough season will get better soon.
Brett Cecil(notes) yielded five hits over eight impressive innings to earn his first major league victory, Alex Rios(notes) drove in three runs and the Blue Jays beat the A’s 5-0 on Sunday for their seventh win in 10 games.
Rios hit a solo homer, a sacrifice fly and a ninth-inning RBI single to back Cecil (1-0), the latest blossoming prospect in Toronto’s rotation. The 22-year-old left-hander struck out six in his second big league start for the Blue Jays, who headed home from their five-game California road swing alone atop the AL East despite going 3-2.
“This is the best West Coast trip we’ve had in a long time,” said Aaron Hill(notes), who had two hits and a ninth-inning RBI. “Hopefully we can keep this momentum going. Whenever we come on this West Coast trip, we’ve had some interesting games, and not always good games. It’s nice to come out here and actually do some damage.”
Injuries forced the Blue Jays to reconfigure their rotation recently, but the replacements have been phenomenal so far. Cecil followed up reliever Brian Tallet’s(notes) outstanding seven-inning start Saturday with a gem of his own, allowing none of Oakland’s seven baserunners to reach third.
Cecil, a supplemental first-round pick in 2007, pitched six strong innings in his major league debut in Toronto last Tuesday. He didn’t get a game ball from his first win, but he expects to find one to send back home to his parents in Maryland.
“I’ve got 100 text messages to read right now,” he said. “I didn’t have my best stuff early, but as the game went on, I got a little better control, got a lot of groundballs.”
Either Cecil or Tallet likely won’t have a rotation spot once the Blue Jays are fully healthy.
“We’ll just go with whoever is pitching best,” said manager Cito Gaston, noting both pitchers’ history of success in the bullpen. “It’s going to be a tough decision, but that’s all right. If they keep pitching that way, I’d like to make that decision.”
Oakland manager Bob Geren could only wish for such problems.
Dallas Braden(notes) (3-4) gave up nine hits and three runs in six innings for the A’s, who have lost six of eight. At 11-18 with the AL’s worst offense in several categories, the A’s have matched their second-worst start since moving to Oakland in 1968.
“He’s hard to explain,” Geren said of Cecil. “From the side, it didn’t look like his stuff was that superior. The guys said there was nothing over the plate. Everything was tailing away, breaking ball and changeup. It was hard to explain.”
Braden pitched through a scary moment in the first inning when a drive by Vernon Wells(notes) hit the left-hander in his pitching hand before ricocheting hard off his right shoulder. Braden dropped to the grass as Wells joined the A’s clustered around the pitcher, but Braden stayed in the game.
Braden went for postgame X-rays on his hand, but returned to the clubhouse about an hour after the game when they were negative.
“He didn’t say much between innings,” said Jack Cust(notes), who went 1 for 4. “Dallas is a tough kid. You have to do a lot to get him out of the game. His hand looked pretty bad to me. He went out there and kept pitching. That’s the kind of player he is. We want him on the mound. He’s our guy right now.”
The only solid starter in the A’s painfully young rotation prevented any big rallies by Toronto’s potent offense, but Braden’s teammates were shut out for the third time in his starts already this season.
Rios ended his 2-for-18 slump on Toronto’s road trip with his third homer of the season in the third. … A’s INF Nomar Garciaparra(notes), out since April 29 with a strained right calf, took batting practice with hopes of returning from the disabled list next week. 3B Eric Chavez(notes), who has missed 14 games with a strained forearm, was scheduled for fielding practice. He could make a rehab appearance in the minors before returning. … Jason Giambi(notes), who raised his meager batting average 15 points and tripled his season total with two homers in Saturday’s loss, went 0 for 4 on Sunday to stay at 399 career homers.