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OAK@TOR: Encarnacion jacks his 10th homer of the year

TORONTO -- Brett Cecil continued his string of impressive outings, but it wasn't enough to get the left-hander back into the win column.

The 24-year-old recorded his fourth consecutive quality start, but it was a pair of mistakes that ultimately led to his undoing against the Athletics.

Cecil allowed two home runs and the Blue Jays' offence remained quiet in 4-1 loss to Oakland on Tuesday night at Rogers Centre.

"Nobody likes to lose, it's never easy to take," Cecil said. "But once the game is over and the intensity is done, you have to realize that you did your job and you can't control what goes on with everything else. Once you let go of the ball, it's out of your control."

Cecil has looked like a new pitcher since making an adjustment to his delivery prior to a start against the Rangers on July 24.

The native of Maryland now brings both hands above his head during the wind-up. That allows him to repeat his delivery and release point on a more consistent basis and the positive results have followed.

Cecil has allowed just seven runs in his past 29 innings. He has surrendered 19 hits over that span, while striking out 22 and walking eight.

The third-year pitcher's only real problem in recent games has been keeping the ball in the ballpark -- all seven runs have occurred via the home run.

During his last start on Aug. 4 in Tampa, it was a three-run homer by Evan Longoria that was Cecil's lone mistake. On Tuesday night in Toronto, it was a pair of long balls by Josh Willingham and Kurt Suzuki that proved to be his undoing.

"One or two pitches seemed to beat me these last two starts," said Cecil, who is now 4-5 with a 4.31 ERA. "I just talked to [bullpen coach] Pat Hentgen and he said I'm going to win the game in Tampa [on Aug. 4] and I'm going to win this game more often than not.

"Quality starts, that's my job to out there and [give up] three runs or less and [throw] six innings or more."

Cecil entered the sixth inning having allowed just one hit. He then left an 0-1 changeup out over the plate to Willingham, that he sent over the wall in left field. The two-run shot was Willingham's 18th of the season and gave Oakland a 2-1 lead.

The following inning it was more of the same for Cecil. He served up a 1-2 slider to Suzuki for a solo home run. It was the second consecutive outing Cecil was charged with three runs and all of them coming on balls that left the park.

Cecil had his winning streak snapped at three games. He allowed four hits while walking two and striking out five in seven innings.

"It was the difference," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said of the homers. "Three runs on two swings of the bat against a guy that was really settling in and throwing as well as he was, that was the difference."

Brett Lawrie was making his home debut on Tuesday night, but it was another Canadian that ended up stealing the show. Right-hander Rich Harden allowed just one run on five hits while striking out eight in seven innings for the Athletics.

Harden's lone blemish came during the second inning, when he surrendered a solo home run to designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion.

Toronto's only real chance to get back into the game occurred during the seventh inning. Colby Rasmus singled to put runners on the corners with nobody out.

Harden then got Aaron Hill to pop out and went on to strike out catcher J.P. Arencibia and Lawrie in back-to-back at-bats to end the frame without any damage.

Both Harden and Lawrie were born in British Columbia. Oakland's righty said after the game he would obviously do whatever it took to get Lawrie out, but he also was complimentary to his fellow countryman.

"He's supposed to be a talented kid," Harden said. "He's got a bright future ahead. He swings the bat well and fits in great with these guys. He can hit the ball out at any time.

"That's pretty exciting, to be playing at home here in Canada, that's a pretty big deal. I remember the first time I came up here and started here, it was a very cool thing."

Harden earned his first career victory against Toronto after entering the game 0-3 with a 5.74 ERA in eight starts.

Toronto has now lost two of its past three games while the Athletics have won three in a row. The end result wasn't ideal for Cecil but he was content with his overall performance.

"As long as I do my job I'm happy," Cecil said. "I can't control what goes on the offensive part. ... You're going to hit a rough spot every now and then. Hopefully it's one or two games, but with this teams I don't think it's going to last long."

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