05/03/10 11:15 PM ET
Battling cold, Cecil overpowers Tribe
Jays starter takes perfect game into seventh inning
By Justice B. Hill / Special to MLB.com
But Cecil might want to carry a headache to the mound with him every time he pitches if the results are going to be like this outing.
The left-hander was masterful Monday night in pitching the Blue Jays to a 5-1 win over the Indians at Progressive Field.
He dominated from start to finish, giving the Tribe a headache -- holding their offense to one hit over eight innings. For seven of those innings, he flirted with perfection. He also finished with a career-high 10 strikeouts.
"The game was great, man," Cecil said. "I had a lot of fun. That's really all I can say about the whole thing in general -- it was awesome."
Cecil didn't have to say much, because his work had spoken for him. If this wasn't his best performance of the season, point out one that was better. He controlled the game from the first inning to his last, baffling the Indians with an assortment of pitches -- curveballs and changeups, inside and outside, on the corners and off the corners.
And when he needed his hard stuff, he reached back and threw his 93-mph fastball. Cecil pitched like a man with far more Major League experience than he has.
"The operative word here is 'pitched,'" catcher John Buck said. "He was locating his fastball in and out. He was aggressive with a whole array of pitches, and makes it tough for hitters to sit on one pitch or on one location. He's able to spread the plate."
His description of Cecil's outing was spot on. For if anything defined his performance, it was his control, which meant he didn't need much support, not the way he pitched against the Indians.
"The night belonged to Cecil," Indians manager Manny Acta said.
Indeed the night did.
Ahead 2-0 on Jose Bautista's two-run homer in the second inning, Cecil was dissecting the heart of the Indians lineup with surgeon-like precision. He kept perfection going through the third, fourth, and fifth as well. Cecil mowed down 19 straight, keeping the unimaginable prospects of perfection in front of him. He remained calm in the face of it.
"Being stuffy and everything, I didn't have time to be nervous," he said. "I just wanted to stay the same every inning -- go pitch-to-pitch with these guys."
Still, he was mindful of what he was doing. He didn't need anybody to tell him he was forging a path toward team history. The Blue Jays have never had a perfect game in their history. Their only no-hitter belongs to Dave Stieb, who did it against the Indians in 1990.
By the sixth, Cecil held a 4-0 lead. He got one out on a dribbler in front of the plate and fanned Lou Marson and Luis Valbuena to keep his perfect game intact.
Then came the seventh. Cecil lost his perfect game on Grady Sizemore's one-out walk. He then walked Shin-Soo Choo. After retiring Austin Kearns, Cecil fell behind Jhonny Peralta. On a 3-2 pitch, Peralta took Cecil's inside fastball and stroked a soft liner to left, the ball falling in cleanly for a single and an RBI.
Cecil's no-hitter fell with it, too.
"No big deal, you know," Cecil said. "One hit, one run in eight innings, it's not bad at all."
Instead of getting rattled and losing his focus, Cecil stayed on task. He had a game that needed to be won, and he was in no position to make a fatal mistake.
"I just wanted to keep them where they were at," he said of the Indians.
"He kept pounding the strike zone," said Aaron Hill, marveling at Cecil's performance. "That was it. He didn't get caught up in the moment."
Justice B. Hill is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.