TORONTO - It was supposed to be a chance for Brett Cecil to show that he belongs in Toronto's starting rotation.
Instead it was a start that ended prematurely and set the Los Angeles Angels up for a 10-6 victory over the Blue Jays.
Cecil (4-10) lost his sixth straight decision Tuesday in what has been a season to forget for the 25-year-old left-hander. He gave up four runs — including a solo homer by former Jays slugger Vernon Wells — and lasted only three innings.
The 25-year-old left-hander wasn't expecting manager John Farrell to go to the bullpen so early.
"Really surprised. I think that's why I'm at a loss for words," a despondent Cecil said after the game. "I only had three innings to work. I just can't find the words to really explain anything right now.
"The ball got up in the third inning and that's really it. I just don't know."
Reliever Kyle Drabek didn't fare much better. He gave up a three-run homer to Mark Trumbo in the fourth and the Angels (84-70) were well on their way to a comfortable victory.
"On a night we needed the runs, we got them," said Angels manager Mike Scioscia.
Los Angeles still has a slim chance of catching Boston for the American League wild-card spot.
The Angels are 3 1/2 games behind the Red Sox after Boston dropped a 7-5 decision to Baltimore on Tuesday night. The Tampa Bay Rays remained two games behind Boston after a 5-0 loss to New York.
"It's a critical time for us to move forward and hopefully get a couple of guys swinging the bats to their capabilities and carry this thing through," Scioscia said. "It's in there. If our guys can swing the bats to their potential, it's going to put us on a good run.
"Needless to say, we need it."
With the Jays (78-76) out of the playoff picture, these September games are a chance for players to show their skills as the team looks ahead to 2012.
Cecil started off strong with three strikeouts in the first inning. But as has been the case throughout the season, his velocity wasn't quite there and the ball started to rise in the strike zone.
The Angels took full advantage.
"It was just the inconsistent location throughout the at-bats to where he had the inability to finish some guys off," Farrell said. "I didn't think his stuff was as sharp as it was the last time out."
Cecil led the team with 15 wins last year but never got on track this year. He spent some time at triple-A Las Vegas and, despite a few decent starts since his return, hasn't really produced the way he was expected to.
Farrell decided to pull Cecil after he threw over 30 pitches in the third inning.
"At that point I didn't see the crispness and the late action to the stuff, particularly against a right-handed dominant lineup," Farrell said.
Wells launched his 23rd homer of the season just over the left-field wall in the second inning. He followed the rainbow shot with a ground-rule RBI double in the three-run third inning.
Trumbo's 29th homer of the year was a no-doubt blast to left-centre field. Drabek was tagged for six earned runs over two innings of work.
Los Angeles starter Joel Pineiro (7-7) allowed four earned runs over six innings.
Toronto opened the scoring in the first inning when Edwin Encarnacion drove in Mike McCoy with an RBI single. McCoy, who had three of Toronto's 11 hits, also brought Colby Rasmus across with a run in the second inning.
McCoy scored again in the seventh on an Encarnacion sacrifice fly, one of three Toronto runs in the inning. Eric Thames scored on a throwing error in the ninth to make it a four-run game.
Cecil's start was pushed back a few days after he cut his finger while cleaning a blender last Wednesday in Boston. He said the finger wasn't an issue against the Angels.
Farrell handed the ball to four relievers in all, including Drabek, Shawn Camp, Joel Carreno and Danny Farquhar. Relievers Rich Thompson, Bobby Cassevah, Garrett Richards and Scott Downs worked in relief for the Angels, who had 15 hits on the night.
Downs struck out Rasmus on three pitches to earn his first save of the season. A crowd of 13,514 took in the action at Rogers Centre and the game took three hours six minutes to play.
Notes: Erick Aybar stole home in the fourth inning. It was the first time the Jays have allowed a straight steal of home since Tampa Bay's B.J. Upton did it in July 2009. ... It was Cecil's shortest start since a three-inning performance against Cincinnati in June 2009. ... The Blue Jays put shortstop Yunel Escobar on the 15-day disabled list with a swollen left elbow, a move retroactive to Sept. 11. ...Toronto will give Dustin McGowan (0-0, 7.50 earned-run average) the start on Wednesday night against fellow right-hander Dan Haren (15-9, 3.24). Toronto rookie Henderson Alvarez (1-2, 3.62) gets the nod in the home finale on Thursday night against Ervin Santana (11-12, 3.40). ... Singer-songwriter Dallas Green of City and Colour threw out the first pitch. ... The roof was open at Rogers Centre. The temperature was a comfortable 20 C when the game started at 7:07 p.m. ET.