For the second time in his last four starts, Cecil went the distance against one of the American League’s top teams, limiting the AL West-leading Texas Rangers to four singles in a 3-0 victory Sunday night for his first career shutout.
“It’s a great accomplishment, to come back from where I was at the start of the season and floating around the whole season, it’s a huge thing for me to get back on the right path,” Cecil said. “I just hope it continues.”
After striking out Mike Napoli(notes) to end the game, Cecil (3-4) was greeted with hugs and emphatic high-fives from teammates as he came off the mound. When Cecil got to the clubhouse, reliever Ricky Romero(notes) got Cecil in the face with whipped cream—the sweet stuff instead of shaving cream.
Cecil made his fifth start since being recalled from Triple-A Las Vegas, where the Blue Jays had sent him after he had a 6.86 ERA in April and his velocity was down.
“Just an outstanding performance. He did a great job right from the first inning,” Blue Jays manager John Farrell said. “He was down in the zone and had a great changeup. He did some work between the last two starts, made a little bit of a change in his delivery, more of over his head with his hands which makes him more compact.”
The only other complete game for Cecil in his 55 career games was a 3-2 loss at Boston on July 5. Last season, he took a perfect game into the seventh inning at Cleveland before settling for eight innings of one-hit ball in a 5-1 victory.
Only one Texas runner reached second base.
Jose Bautista(notes) had an RBI double and a diving catch in an unusual spot to back up Cecil, who struck out seven and walked two while throwing a career-high 121 pitches in a game that started with a temperature of 105 degrees—matching the hottest ever at Rangers Ballpark.
Bautista’s hit sent home Yunel Escobar(notes), who led off the sixth with his third hit. Edwin Encarnacion(notes) and Travis Snider(notes) had consecutive RBI doubles later in the inning off All-Star right-hander Alexi Ogando(notes) (10-4).
Cecil got through the heart of the Texas lineup in the ninth. Reigning AL MVP Josh Hamilton(notes) led off by weakly grounding out, and the Rangers managed only a two-out infield hit on a slow roller by Nelson Cruz(notes) before Napoli struck out.
“It was the adrenaline pumping pretty good and wanting to get it done so bad,” Cecil said. “Those were the most tiring two hitters I’ve ever had to face, the last two.”
All the other Rangers singles were leading off innings, but they still were never able to put together a run-scoring frame against Cecil.
The Rangers lost for only the third time in 17 games overall, and had their nine-game home winning streak ended.
It was the fifth time this season the Rangers were shut out, but the first by an individual pitcher.
“He mixed it up. Seems like he stayed out of trouble all night,” Rangers first baseman Mitch Moreland(notes) said. “He worked both sides of the plate, was throwing everything for strikes and getting ahead. When you do that, you’re going to have a good game.”
In the field, the Blue Jays used a drastic shift against some of the Texas left-handers that had third baseman Bautista playing short right field—much like the rover in a softball game. Bautista started the bottom of the sixth with a diving catch of Moreland’s sinking liner.
The only Texas runner to get to second was Craig Gentry(notes), who singled twice— a bunt single in third and another hit in the eighth. He got to second in the eighth after tagging up on a long flyball by Moreland.
Gentry was briefly stunned when his helmet came off and he slid headfirst into the back side of second baseman Aaron Hill’s(notes) leg. Gentry stayed on the ground briefly and was checked out by a trainer. He stayed in the game.
Ogando had won his previous three starts this month following a three-game losing streak. He struck out six and walked two in 6 2-3 innings.
Each of Toronto’s first four innings ended with Ogando striking out a batter, the same way the fifth inning started. After Escobar and Eric Thames(notes) had consecutive two-out singles in the third, Ogando got out of that jam when he threw a 96 mph fastball past Bautista.
Bautista didn’t miss in the sixth, and got the Blue Jays going in their decisive outburst.
Toronto had also scored three runs in the sixth inning Saturday night to take a 4-3 lead in that game, but Texas won with two runs in a ninth-inning rally that included three sacrifice bunts—one a suicide squeeze—before Michael Young’s(notes) game-ending hit.
Notes: It was also 105 degrees when Oakland played at Texas on July 8. The previous record high temperature before the two 105-degree nights this month had been 103 degrees on Aug. 3, 2008, another night game against Toronto. … The Rangers won 10 games in a row at Rangers Ballpark in 1998. … The Blue Jays have won four of seven against Texas this season, all at Rangers Ballpark. They wrap up their season series next weekend with three games in Toronto.