One swing of bat sends Cecil, Jays to loss
Starter's quality stretch ends with second-inning grand slam
SAN DIEGO -- Brett Cecil thought it was simply a fly ball.
The same could probably be said for anyone else on hand at PETCO Park witness to the second-inning shot that Padres outfielder Aaron Cunningham sent to center field on Tuesday.
Instead of falling comfortably into the glove of center fielder Vernon Wells, though, the baseball kept going. As Wells closed in on the wall, and Cecil watched helplessly from the mound, the ball left the yard for a game-changing grand slam. It was a jolt that provided enough damage to send Toronto on its way to an 8-2 loss.
"I thought it was going to be a ball that Vernon catches," Cecil said. "But, he got enough of it."
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It was one swing of the bat, but the Blue Jays were unable to climb out of the 4-0 hole that Cunningham's blast provided, leading to a seventh loss in nine games for Toronto. Combined with that fact that the Jays' bats went silent against Padres starter Mat Latos, the grand slam easily spoiled an otherwise solid effort from Cecil.
Remove Cunningham's home run and Cecil allowed just one run over six innings for the slumping Blue Jays (35-31). Unfortunately, the reality is that San Diego's outburst in the fourth -- one that skewed Cecil's final line -- proved to be the difference in Toronto's most recent Interleague lapse.
Now the Blue Jays are hoping to salvage the three-game set with a win in the finale on Wednesday. A loss would mark the first time this season that Toronto has dropped three series in a row. The Jays are 2-6 on the current road trip and have lost 13 of their past 19 games on the road.
Cecil (7-3), though, performed much better than the box score indicates.
"He's probably had one bad outing," said Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston. "Tonight it looked like one, but it wasn't. He had good stuff. He just made, I wouldn't say a bad pitch, I think the kid hit a pretty good pitch. You have to give hitters credit, too, sometimes.
"I don't know if he was looking for it or what, but he drove it a long way."
Latos (7-4) earned the win after surrendering two runs -- Alex Gonzalez and Lyle Overbay each contributed an RBI single in the fourth -- on four hits over 6 2/3 innings for the Padres (38-27). San Diego scored once in the third and added three in the eighth, but the game essentially came down to one pitch to Cunningham.
With one out in the second inning, the Padres set their rally in motion when catcher Nick Hundley pulled a pitch from Cecil into left field for a base hit. That single came after the southpaw retired the first four hitters with ease, looking much like the pitcher who won each of his previous five starts.
"Cecil came in here throwing the ball extremely well," said Padres manager Bud Black. "First inning, pretty good stuff -- went through us 1-2-3. But, when a ball is hit like [Hundley's], I think it picks everybody up and says, 'Hey, we can get this guy.'"
Cecil followed with a walk to Chris Denorfia and then allowed an infield single to Jerry Hairston Jr. to load the bases. Hairston's hit was sharp up the middle and Blue Jays second baseman Aaron Hill made a diving grab to secure the ball and save a run. That is when Cunningham stepped up to the plate.
After taking a first-pitch strike, Cunningham drilled a changeup to straightaway center.
"I don't even know if it would have been a strike," Cunningham said. "I was hoping it would get out, but I thought it would at least be a sacrifice fly and we'd get a run in."
Instead, Cunningham drove in four, becoming the first player in Padres history to launch a grand slam as his first hit with the club. It was a moment to celebrate in the home dugout, but one that provided plenty of frustration for Cecil and the Jays.
"He was out in front," Cecil said. "It's 400-plus feet out where he hit it. I don't know how it got out. He must have some strong wrists, because he was out in front of it. It could've been a better pitch, but I think it was still a good pitch."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.