May 29, 2012
Romero bounces back against O's
By KEN FIDLIN, QMI Agency
TORONTO - When the game of baseball is kicking your butt, the only thing to do is kick right back.
Last Wednesday afternoon in St. Petersburg, Fla., Toronto Blue Jays ace Ricky Romero walked a career-high seven batters in what turned into a 5-4 defeat at the hands of the Tampa Bay Rays. The running tally at the end of that disaster was 21 walks in Romero's 22 most recent innings. He was shaken despite having allowed only two hits in the game.
Fast-forward to Tuesday night and an encounter of some importance -- for both the Jays and their star hurler -- between the division-leading Baltimore Orioles and Romero in his first attempt to stop the bleeding since that fiasco in Florida.
In the end, it wasn’t one of Romero's great outings, having struggled through a three-run sixth inning after allowing only one through the first five, but this time, at least, he didn’t beat himself. He gave up four runs on six hits and struck out seven while looking a lot more like the leader of this pitching staff.
“I’m my worst critic and I’m always going to be like that. It’s one outing and there’s obviously some positives but also some negatives,” said Romero. “I’m looking forward to my next start and we’ll just take it from there.”
He got support from up and down the Jays lineup, but especially from the bottom third of the order. Brett Lawrie, David Cooper and Rajai Davis, the 7-8-9 hitters, combined to go 8-for-12 on the night, driving in six runs and scoring four. Lawrie and Davis each had three hits, Cooper two.
Romero gave up a second-inning leadoff home run to Adam Jones, then nothing more until the Baltimore offence, second in all of baseball in home runs, came alive in the sixth. Chris Davis delivered the key blow against Romero in that inning, a two-run homer, his ninth of the year.
“I should be out there saving the bullpen some innings,” said Romero. “I didn’t do that tonight. That sixth inning kind of got away from me. I’m a work in progress and it was a good showing by the team. They got some runs early and they picked me up.
The good news for the Jays and for Romero was the fact he walked only one man and consistently threw strikes with his fastball early in the count, allowing him to make better use of his secondary breaking pitches.
“I thought he attacked the strike zone much better than the three or four times previously,” said Jays manager John Farrell. “They did chip him for three runs in his final inning but I thought it was overall a very good step in the right direction tonight.
“He didn’t miss as many pitches to his arm side. I thought the first-pitch strikes were a big improvement, to give him a chance to get to his secondary pitches. Just the overall body language and the pace and tempo of the game were a big improvement tonight.”
After a tidy 1-2-3 first inning, Romero started Jones, leading off the second, with a first-pitch fastball that the Orioles batter tattooed into the Baltimore bullpen in right field to give his club a 1-0 lead.
The Jays replied in the third with the bottom of the order doing the damage.
Lawrie and Cooper singled back-to-back. With runners at first and second, Davis tried to move them along with a sacrifice bunt that was perfectly placed on the third base side. Davis had the throw beaten for a base hit but O’s third baseman Steve Tolleson lent the Jays a hand by throwing wildly toward first, allowing Lawrie to score and putting both Cooper and Davis in scoring position. After Kelly Johnson struck out, Yunel Escobar’s groundout to third scored Cooper to give Toronto a 2-1 lead.
In the bottom of the fourth, the Jays added three more runs to give Romero a bit of a cushion. With one out, Colby Rasmus doubled and J.P. Arencibia walked. Lawrie’s double into right-centre scored both runners. Lawrie later went to third when Jones dropped Cooper’s liner in centre field. Davis then delivered Lawrie home with a single into left before O’s starter Jake Arrieta got the final two outs.
Lawrie’s third hit, a fifth-inning single, scored Jose Bautista and gave Lawrie his first three-RBI game since April 15. In 21 previous games this month, Lawrie had only four RBI.
Staked to an 8-4 lead in the ninth, Jays closer Casey Janssen gave up a home run to Jones, his second of the game and 16th of the season. It was a two-run shot that was followed by a Ronnie Paulino line drive to centre that Rasmus misplayed into a double, bringing the tying run to the plate.
Janssen got out of trouble, helped by a sliding catch by Lawrie of a pop-up in foul ground.