June 27, 2012
Romero blows it in BostonJays ace surrenders nine runs
By KEN FIDLIN, QMI Agency
BOSTON - Where have you gone, Ricky Romero?
Nobody wants that question answered any more than Romero himself.
In a time of some crisis, when the Toronto Blue Jays need their leader to restore order to a ravaged pitching staff, Romero simply added to the chaos Wednesday with one of the worst performances of his career as the lightning rod for a 10-4 Boston Red Sox romp.
Against a Red Sox lineup that can smell blood, especially that of a struggling pitcher, a mile away, Romero was a lamb to the slaughter, tagged for six first-inning runs on the way to allowing nine runs, eight of them earned -- career highs on both counts.
Coming off his best season in 2011 when he won 15 games with an earned-run average of 2.92, Romero has been mediocre at times this year but never as absolutely inept as he was Wednesday.
“I just didn’t do my job today,” he said, the words barely above a whisper. “I’m embarrassed in myself more than anything. I felt like I let the team down and it was definitely not the type of outing I was looking for.”
Staked to a 1-0 lead, he went to the mound in the bottom of the first and proceeded to throw 13 balls and three strikes in his first 16 pitches. One of those strikes was absolutely tattooed by Dustin Pedroia for an RBI double.
From there, it went downhill in a hurry.
By the time the half-inning was over, the Red Sox had scored six times on four hits, two walks and a bases-loaded error by first baseman Edwin Encarnacion on a ground ball by Adrian Gonzalez.
The Red Sox sent 10 men to the plate in that inning and Romero threw 43 pitches, 20 of them for balls. The 23 pitches he threw for strikes produced not one swing-and-miss.
“Physically, everything is fine,” said Jays manager John Farrell. “It’s a matter of having conviction and trust and overall belief in your abilities.
“He was tentative with his changeup, trying to place it rather than throw it aggressively. When he does (throw aggressively), that’s when he’s at his best. And he was never really ahead in the count enough to be able to use some finishing-type secondary pitches and was always trying to fight back into the count.”
After that initial six-run onslaught, the Red Sox just piled on. They added another run (two walks and a Gonzalez single) in the second, left a pair of runners in scoring position in the third and sent Romero packing after David Ortiz’s third of three walks and Cody Ross’ double on the Toronto lefty’s 90th pitch of the game.
“At times I’ve been wild and at times I’ve gotten hit,” said Romero. “Today it was a combination of both and that’s a bad combo to have.
“At the end of the day, it’s one thing: not being consistent in the zone. That’s something I was so good at last year and early on this year. Right now it seems like when I’m missing, I’m missing bad. Not even coming close. It’s just so disappointing.”
With Jesse Chavez pitching in relief of Romero, working on two days rest after his start in Miami Sunday, both those inherited runners scored before the right-hander could right the ship.
In the fifth, Ortiz made it 10-2 with his 21st homer of the season, at which point even the Red Sox seemed to lose interest.
The only bright spots for Toronto came, first, when Jose Bautista led off the fourth with a mammoth home run, his 25th, that cleared everything in left field and left a huge dent in the roof of an SUV parked in a lot across Lansdowne Street. An inning later, Encarnacion hit one even further, clearing the Volvo sign in left-centre.
For most of the first three years of his career, the Red Sox have had Romero’s number. Up until last September, in 11 starts, he had a 2-6 record against them with a whopping 9.80 ERA. Then, suddenly, he pitched three consecutive gems against them, two last September and one this past April when he beat them 3-1 and pitched into the ninth inning.
That game was just a vague memory Wednesday. Now, in 15 career starts against the Sox, he has a 7.12 ERA. More to the point, his ERA for the season against all comers has ballooned to 4.94, more than two runs above his ERA for the entire season in 2011.
Farrell is concerned, both for the outlook of his team and the mental welfare of his best pitcher, but he is still able to take a philosophical stance.
“Everybody would sign up for long stretches when, no matter what signal is put down, you execute every pitch,” he said. “But these are people. They’re human. They’re not robots.”
As discouraged as Romero was in the moments after this loss, he’ll begin his search for answers again Thursday, looking to find himself sifting through the video evidence of better days.
“I’ll get back to work (Thursday),” he said. “I’m going to dissect myself in the video room and see what’s different this year from the end of last year. I’ll sit down with Pappy (pitching coach Bruce Walton) and Pete (Walker, bullpen coach) and see what we can come up with.”