Romero turns tables on Bosox
By Ken Fidlin, QMI Agency
|Toronto Blue Jays Edwin Encarnacion (right) congratulates pitcher Sergio Santos on his save against the Boston Red Sox Wednesday afternoon at the Rogers Centre. Jays won 3-1. (VERONICA HENRI/QMI AGENCY)
TORONTO - There was a time, and not very long ago, when the Red Sox couldn’t wait to get a piece of Ricky Romero. They owned him, body and soul.
In the first 11 games of his career against Boston, Romero was 2-6 with an ERA of 13.59. He allowed 79 hits and 35 walks in 52.1 innings.
No matter what he tried it didn’t work. This being the American League East where the Blue Jays have to face Boston 18 times a year, it behooved Romero to start doing something about it. He did. In his last three starts, two in September 2011 and again on Wednesday, he is 3-0 with a 2.74 ERA, allowing 14 hits and six walks over 23 innings.
“The answer is simple,” he said Wednesday afternoon, after a masterful 8.1 innings of three-hit, two-walk, one-run baseball in a 3-1 Blue Jay win over Boston to give Toronto a 2-1 series win in front of 25,285 at Rogers Centre.
“I started throwing strike one. You have to make them beat you. Before, I used to try to do too much against this team and walks just killed me. Before this start, I looked at video of my last two starts (in 2011) against them and reinforced that idea of strike one, force them to swing the bat.
“I pounded the zone. With these guys, you have to make them swing the bat. They’ll work the counts if you don’t throw strikes. I just went out there and did my job and let the defence go to work.”
This kind of approach has the added bonus of pitch conservation. Through six innings Wednesday, Romero used just 63 pitches and by the time he came out to pitch the ninth, he had thrown just 90 and had set down 17 batters in a row.
This series finale was a pitchers’ duel right from the start between two of the top lefthanders in the American League, Romero and Boston’s Jon Lester that took just 133 minutes from start to finish. Lester went all the way for the Red Sox, allowing three runs on three hits and a pair of walks.
“I had a good feel for my sinker,” said Romero. “They beat the ball into the ground a lot. When you’re able to make them do that, you have to stay with it until they make that adjustment. When they did adjust, I had a good curve ball to fall back on.
“These guys are so tough to pitch to, you’ve just got to keep them off-balance.”
The Red Sox clustered three singles in four batters to get to Romero for a run in the top of the third. The Jays came right back in the bottom half, combining an Eric Thames leadoff single with a one-out Rajai Davis triple and a Yunel Escobar sacrifice fly to take a 2-1 advantage.
That’s the way the score remained until, with two out in the eighth, Rajai Davis walked. With Yunel Escobar at the plate, Davis broke for second and Lester had him picked off but first baseman Adrian Gonzaez’s throw to second base was wide left and Davis sneaked in with a head-first slide.
After a discussion at the mound, the Sox decided to pitch to Escobar and he made them pay with a line-drive single to centre, scoring Davis easily. With lefthanded hitter Kelly Johnson on-deck, the Sox might have pitched around Escobar so Lester could face the lefty but they felt otherwise.
Romero came out for the ninth and promptly walked Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia. Both runners moved up on Adrian Gonzalez’s long fly to centre before Farrell went to the bullpen, summoning Sergio Santos with the tying run at second.
Santos, who had blown saves in his first two appearances, struck out Kevin Youkilis and then got David Ortiz to ground out to end the game.
“It was a classic duel on both sides and we were able to manufacture three runs,” said manager John Farrell.
“Going against a very good offensive lineup, Ricky was able to get 11 or 12 groundball outs. I knew how much he wanted to finish out that ball game but he did his job.
“Then Santos came on and really redeemed himself after his first couple of outings and did what we anticipated when we acquired him.”
The Blue Jays have Thursday off with the Baltimore Orioles scheduled in for three games this weekend starting on Friday when Brandon Morrow will oppose Baltimore’s Tommy Hunter.