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Jays head home on a high

Jays head home on a high
Brett Cecil accepted congratulations for his first major-league win with a shrug, a polite thank you, and then launched into self-criticism about his first two innings in yesterday's 5-0 win over the Oakland Athletics.

"Not so good," the rookie left-hander said, wrinkling his nose. "My fastball location wasn't good. Didn't get ahead of guys."

Oh, c'mon. Just a little giddiness, okay? I mean, really - here are your 22-12 Toronto Blue Jays , first-place in the American League East, with an off-day today before a three-game home series against the New York Yankees. Can we get a little emotion, here? Alex Rios even hit a home run and had three runs batted in just one day after manager Cito Gaston seemed to wonder openly - and candidly - whether Rios was going to be able to clean up his mechanics at all this year.

These Athletics are flat-out awful against left-handers - they're 3-11 in games started by lefties - and the Blue Jays were coming off a 6-4 win on Saturday, but what did somebody mention in the clubhouse before yesterday's game? According to Aaron Hill, somebody mentioned a series at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in July of 2006, particularly a game in which Milton Bradley hit a walk-off, three-run home run off closer B.J. Ryan on what would turn out to be a 2-8 trip on which the Blue Jays fall from 5? games out to 8?. They never recovered.

The Blue Jays are 8-4 in Oakland going back to 2007, but any West Coast trip still carries an element of fear to Eastern teams.

"This is a nice West Coast trip for us," said Hill, who was 2-for-5 to extend his hitting streak to seven games. "I feel better going back East than maybe any other West Coast trip I can remember."

Barring one bad inning from Scott Richmond last Friday, the Blue Jays could have swept this series. They won 6-4 on Saturday when Brian Tallet fired seven innings of two-hit pitching and made a crafty veteran's use of umpire Paul Nauert's generous strike zone.

"I threw some borderline pitches in 3-2 counts that he gave to me early, and I kept throwing it and he kept calling it," Tallet said after that win. "You get around the plate enough and work quick enough and umpires like it. Umpires will give you border-line pitches if you earn it, and I'm confident I can do that every time I go out."

Outings such as Tallet's and Cecil's are creating a pleasant dilemma for Gaston.

With Casey Janssen and Ricky Romero pitching this week at Double-A New Hampshire in what could be their final minor-league rehabilitation assignments, decisions will soon need to be made. Gaston doesn't think it's fair to let Romero lose his spot in the rotation because injury, and he likes the idea of having another lefty in the bullpen. That would suggest Tallet goes back into the pen, but Gaston reminded everybody that Cecil was a closer in college.

Cecil retired the lead-off hitter in every inning, giving up five hits in eight innings while striking out six, walking two and using an economical 104 pitches. Jason Frasor and Jesse Carlson cleaned up the ninth, in a game in which the Blue Jays rattled off 13 hits, one of which was a liner by Vernon Wells that struck Athletics starter Dallas Braden (3-4) on his pitching hand and then his neck. Braden was knocked down, but stayed in to work six innings before leaving for X-rays, which were negative.

Rios' homer gave the Blue Jays a 1-0 lead. His sacrifice fly made the score 2-0 and a two-out single in the ninth scored the Blue Jays final run. Hill had an RBI single in the Blue Jays two-run ninth while Rod Barajas added a sacrifice fly.

Rios was 2-for-17 on the trip coming into the game and hadn't had an extra base hit in six games. He had just one RBI. Saturday, Gaston admitted he was concerned, saying: "His mechanics are bad. Geno [hitting coach Gene Tenace] and I have talked to him about it and we'll continue to. It just has to kick in, and some guys go all year without that happening. Hopefully, that not what we'll see with him."

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: May 11, 2009

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