MLB

Thu, Jun 30, 2011 - 7:07 PM ET
 

Pirates-Blue Jays Preview

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Last season, Brett Cecil led Toronto in victories. This year, he's just hoping to make the most of a second chance and remain on the Blue Jays' roster.

Recalled from the minors, Cecil makes his first major league start in more than two months Thursday in the Blue Jays' decisive series finale with the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates.

Cecil went 15-7 with a 4.22 ERA in 2010, his second big-league season. However, the left-hander was sent down to the minors after going 1-2 with a 6.86 ERA in his first four starts of 2011.

After building his arm strength while going 8-2 with a 5.26 ERA in 12 starts for Triple-A Las Vegas, Cecil is ready to give it another shot on the major league level.

"It's definitely a tough thing to deal with, because nothing's hurt," Cecil told the Blue Jays' official website. "You're not feeling anything. The ball feels like it's coming out good and it's only 85. I was really frustrated."

Cecil, who turns 25 on Saturday, will try to help the Blue Jays (40-41) get back to .500 and take the series from Pittsburgh after winning 2-1 on Wednesday. Brandon Morrow struck out 10 over seven strong innings and Yunel Escobar doubled home the tiebreaking run in the seventh to help Toronto win for the fourth time in six games.

Rajai Davis snapped on 0-for-12 slump with a pair of doubles for his first multihit game since June 3.

"I really hope this jump starts him a little bit," manager John Farrell said.

Escobar, who had his second straight two-hit game, is 7 for 17 in his last four contests. He's also 7 for 14 in his last three against the Pirates, and 1 for 3 with a double against scheduled Thursday starter Jeff Karstens (5-4, 2.66).

The right-hander is 2-0 with a 1.31 ERA in five June starts. Karstens yielded three of his five earned runs for the month and gave up three homers while throwing a season-high 109 pitches Saturday, but still earned the win in a 6-4 victory over Boston.

"We've got to push the envelope in some areas once in awhile," manager Clint Hurdle told the Pirates' official website.

Karstens is 1-0 with a 3.46 ERA in two starts against the Blue Jays, but has not faced them in a starting role since 2006 while with the New York Yankees.

Shortstop Ronny Cedeno had two of the four hits and the only RBI on Wednesday for Pittsburgh (40-39), which slipped one night after snapping a 13-game interleague road skid with a 7-6 victory.

"We can get in swing-mode sometimes and I thought we took too many fastballs early to get down in counts," Hurdle said.

The light-hitting Cedeno is 13 for 26 over his last nine games, raising his average 30 points to .251.

Despite Wednesday's defeat, the Pirates still have a chance to win their first interleague road set since taking two of three at Tampa Bay in 2003. They have dropped 17 straight road series against AL opponents.

Tagged: Blue Jays, Pirates, Jeff Karstens, Brett Cecil

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