With a runner on first base for the Red Sox, Cecil retrieved the ball, looked it over and decided he wanted a new one. The lefty lobbed the baseball toward the Blue Jays' dugout, but he did not request a timeout ahead of time. It was a costly mental gaffe that served as a fitting summation for Toronto's 8-1 loss to Boston at Rogers Centre.
Nothing went the Blue Jays' way.
"I've said it many times this year," Jays manager Cito Gaston said. "When we've won, we've won as a team. We definitely lost as a team tonight. We didn't pitch well, we didn't play defense well and we certainly didn't hit. We didn't play well tonight.
"It was just one of those games that you look back at it and hope that you forget it."
Cecil would not argue with Gaston's last statement. The rookie's embarrassing mental error paved the way for a three-run outburst for the Red Sox in the fourth and led to an abbreviated outing for the young left-hander. In all, Toronto (55-64) made a season-high three errors and the club's offense was simply overpowered by Boston lefty Jon Lester.
As a result, the fourth-place Blue Jays dropped to 20 games behind the American League East-leading Yankees, and Toronto is now closer to slipping to last place in the division than it is to catching the third-place Rays. The Jays have also moved more than eight games below the .500 mark for the first time since they were 67-94 at the end of the 2004 season.
The evening unraveled with Cecil's fourth-inning blunder.
By throwing the baseball into the dugout, Cecil was slapped with a two-base error, allowing Jason Bay to advance to from first base to third with the game caught in a 1-1 tie. Cecil said it simply did not occur to him to signal to home-plate umpire Greg Gibson, asking for a timeout.
"It's pretty obvious I wasn't even thinking about timeout being called or anything," Cecil said. "I saw a scuff mark or some dirt on the ball and I wanted to throw it in -- I wanted a new ball. I turned around and chucked it and that was that. The fact didn't even come to my mind that time hadn't been called or anything like that.
"I pretty much just got out of rhythm when I threw the ball into the dugout."
Lester said it was the first time he has seen something like Cecil's mistake.
"I've never seen anything like what happened tonight," Lester said. "It's just one of those deals where I don't know if you lose concentration, or just think that the ball is dead, or whatever. I don't know what happened. It's just one of those things that actually helped us out, but you hate to see stuff like that happen.
"The kid's pitching a decent game and something like that can really break your confidence."
Two batters later, Cecil (5-2) allowed a run-scoring single to Boston's Mike Lowell to put Toronto behind, 2-1. Two pitches into the next at-bat, Cecil surrendered a two-run home run to J.D. Drew, who also launched a solo shot for the Red Sox (69-51) in the third inning.
Adding to Cecil's issues was the fact that Lester (10-7) was fashioning a gem against Toronto. Over eight innings, the lefty scattered three hits -- two coming in the first inning. Between the first and eighth frames, Lester allowed just one hit over a span of 25 batters. The Jays loaded the bases with no outs in the first, but scored just once on a double-play groundout from Barajas.
"He's a good pitcher," said Gaston, referring to Lester. "He's got good stuff. I'm just a little surprised at his record. Overall, he's one of the better left-handers in this league."
Aided by a throwing error from Jays third baseman John McDonald, the Sox then tacked on two more runs in the fifth. Boston ran out to an 8-1 advantage in the seventh inning, when Blue Jays reliever Shawn Camp yielded a solo homer to catcher Victor Martinez -- Boston's eighth home run in the three-game sweep over Toronto.
Cecil left after just 4 1/3 innings, during which he was charged with six runs (four earned) on six hits. The lefty did not want to blame his ill-timed decision in the fourth on a lapse in focus, though.
"I was definitely upset about it," Cecil said. "It's nobody's fault but my own, but it shouldn't be tough to regain focus from it. I made a mistake. Whatever. Forget about it."
Forgetting about Thursday night is precisely what the Blue Jays will try to do.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less