Romero aces Orioles

Blue Jays starter Ricky Romero pitches against the Orioles at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ont.,...

Blue Jays starter Ricky Romero pitches against the Orioles at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ont., June 15, 2011. (ERNEST DOROSZUK/QMI Agency)

MIKE RUTSEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:34 AM ET

TORONTO - With Zach Stewart set for his major league debut on Thursday afternoon and Kyle Drabek shuffled off to triple-A Las Vegas, it marked the latest punch to the chin suffered by the Blue Jays struggling rotation.

One bright spot in an otherwise underperforming starting five, however, has been the work of Ricky Romero, Wednesday night's starter.

Romero was tabbed as the Jays opening day starter this spring and since the first game back on April 1, he has performed like a No. 1 should.

In Wednesday's 4-1 victory over Baltimore, Romero was the rock on which their triumph was built as he checked the Orioles on three hits over eight-plus innings while equalling his career high of 12 strikeouts.

It marked the 16th consecutive victory for the Jays over the Orioles at Rogers Centre.

The Jays lost their shutout bid in the ninth on a RBI single by Matt Wieters.

The game drew a surprising crowd of 14,541 given the fact that it was going up against Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final between the Canucks and Bruins. Hockey haters one and all.

Yunel Escobar opened things up for the Jays in the bottom of the first by nailing a 3-1 pitched from Baltimore starter Jake Arrieta and slamming it off the facing of the second deck for his eighth home run of the season.

It was his first leadoff homer of the campaign, fourth of his career.

Juan Rivera doubled the Jays lead in the sixth with his fifth bomb of the season while Adam Lind provided the kill shot with a two-run homer in the seventh.

Romero, meanwhile, has been on quite a roll of late.

With Wednesday's performance, the left-hander has turned in seven consecutive starts where he has thrown a minimum of seven innings. Over that stretch he has allowed three or fewer runs on six occasions and has gone 4-2 with one no-decision.

Romero's evening was set up by command of a cut fastball, a pitch he went to frequently against the Orioles. It's a pitch he has been developing all season.

"I think this is the first time I've ever had a good feel for my backdoor cutter and we threw it all night," Romero said. "It's a little different look for what I'm trying to do now and I'm just trying to add to my repertoire."

Romero came out for the ninth in an attempt to close out a complete-game shutout but after walking the first two batters he was replaced by Frank Francisco, who collected the save.

"I don't think I lost focus, it was adrenalin and you're trying to get outs," he said. 'I started pressing a little bit. But I take a lot of pride going deep in games."

Zach attack

Stewart, who goes Thursday afternoon, didn't arrive until about an hour before Wednesday's game.

A good friend of Drabek's, he was glad he got a call from the right-hander who is headed to Vegas.

"He called me yesterday and told me: 'Congratulations' and I talked to him," Stewart said of his conversation with Drabek. "He told me he was happy for me and I told him that obviously I wish it was under different circumstances.

"He was awesome about it and said: 'Don't even worry about it. You deserve to be here and just go out and play.' I told him: 'You're a hell of a player, don't worry about it. Things happen and you'll be back here in no time.'

"He seemed to be in high spirts and was cool about it talking to me. And he actually called me, which is cool. We're close and everything's good."


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