TORONTO - Whatever chips acting manager Don Wakamatsu and the Toronto Blue Jays had left they piled on top of Ricky Romero Monday night.
Having lost four games in a row, including the last three to Tampa Bay, the Jays and Romero didn’t want to get skunked by the Rays on their home turf.
Romero would have seemed to be a safe bet as the lefty entered the game on quite a roll having won his last five decisions.
In fact, in his previous seven starts Romero had gone 5-0 with a 1.84 ERA and the Jays were an undefeated 7-0 over that stretch.
Down 2-0 seven pitches into the game thanks to a two-run blast from Johnny Damon, Romero regained his bearings and allowed just one more run — a solo shot by Damon — over the next five innings to depart the game after six innings with a 6-3 lead.
Relievers Jesse Litsch, Casey Janssen and Frank Francisco took it from there as Romero notched the win for the Jays in a much-needed 7-3 victory against the Rays.
It wasn’t a vintage effort from Romero but it was a gritty one that enabled the lefty to improve his record to 13-9 on the season and go 5-0 in August. In his six innings he allowed six hits, walked four and struck out two.
It’s wins such as this that taste the sweetest for Romero.
“When everything is working it’s easy to get through a game and go eight, nine innings,” he said. “It’s these outings that make you mentally strong and you’re like ‘I grinded and I did everything I could and I made it through six.’”
He was so-so in his previous outing, a no-decision against the Kansas City Royals. What’s been different in the past two starts?
“Consistency, not throwing strikes,” Romero said. “I think I’ve thrown a lot of pitches in the past two starts (early) and it hasn’t let me get into that seventh, eighth inning.
“I’m just throwing too many balls and getting deep in counts and fighting myself to come all the way back. If these are my worst outings, I’ll take them any time. Like I said, it’s all about grinding.”
He was also helped by his teammates behind him as they turned double plays in both the fifth and sixth to help keep the club's lead intact.
“He didn’t have his best stuff but the thing that’s special about Ricky is his competitiveness,” Wakamatsu said. “He had a couple of big double plays that got him out of some jams and he just never gave in all night and got us through six.”
The victory allowed the Jays, who were waxed 12-0 by the Rays on Sunday, to end the homestand 2-5.
On the hitting front, Adam Lind has been almost as absent as Jays manager John Farrell, who is out with pneumonia.
In his past 12 games, Lind has been hitting just .170 (8-for-47) and had a poor at-bat in the first when he grounded into an inning-ending double play.
But in the third, an inning that started with the Jays trailing 2-0, Lind came to the plate with a runner on and the lead shaved down to a run thanks to a RBI groundout by Jose Bautista.
Lind worked the count to 2-2 and then ripped the next pitch from Rays starter Wade Davis over the fence in centre field for his 23rd home run of the season to give the Jays a 3-2 lead, one they wouldn’t relinquish. It was also Lind’s first home run since Aug. 17.
Bautista also homered for the home side, a solo shot in the sixth off the facing of the third deck — No. 38 on the season.
J.P. Arencibia contributed two RBIs in Toronto's 14-hit attack with an RBI double in the fourth and RBI single in the fifth.
“Offensively, we talked about having better at-bats and getting the opposing pitcher in trouble early and that’s exactly what happened,” Wakamatsu said. “Lind hit the big home run but several guys contributed in the top of the order. A lot of good things happened tonight.
“This is a good offensive club and we played a little bit more as a club tonight.”
Farrell still fatigued
Farrell isn’t about to return to the Jays dugout any time soon. Interim manager Don Wakamatsu said Monday that Farrell, who missed the past four games against the Rays, will not join the Jays in Baltimore for the club's next three games either. The Jays open a three-game series against the Orioles on Tuesday before flying to New York on Friday for another three-game set against the Yankees. Farrell is still weak and recovering from a bout of pneumonia that first surfaced last Thursday and caused him to leave the game against the Kansas City Royals in the ninth inning. “(Farrell)’s still feeling a little shaky so we’ve made the decision that he will not be with us in the Baltimore series,” Wakamatsu said, the “we” being the team doctors and Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos. “It’s just to be safe. This is not something you want to play around with. You want to be safe with it.” Monday's win was the first for Wakamatsu following three losses. “I hope it helps (Farrell) sleep at night,” Wakamatsu said with a laugh. “We talked about it as a club a bit and getting one for him and getting on the horse a little bit and having a good flight to Baltimore.”