TORONTO - It was the kind of start that Ricky Romero has been seeking.
Unfortunately for Romero and the Toronto Blue Jays, it wasn’t enough.
Following a much needed four-game break thanks to the all-star game, the Jays and Romero were back at it Friday against the never-say-die Cleveland Indians at the Rogers Centre.
After enduring a rocky first half this season, Romero had hopes of opening up the second half on a bright note.
Romero was just fine Friday but thanks to a better performance from Cleveland’s Justin Masterson, Romero collected the loss in a 1-0 Indians victory.
Five hits and no runs won’t win you many games but that’s what the Jays offence contributed.
All it took for Romero to lose his goose egg was one bad pitch, a hanging curveball that Travis Hafner didn’t miss to lead off the second inning. It ended in the Indians bullpen for his eighth home run of the campaign.
“One bad pitch again,” Romero said. “I just hung a curveball to Hafner and he took advantage of it. Nothing I could do there. I felt like I got out of some jams and made some good pitches.”
Losing always sucks but it’s especially bitter when you get a performance from your starter such as Romero provided and come up empty.
“Any time you lose it’s frustrating whether you lose 10-0 or 1-0,” Romero said. “I always say I’m a sore loser. I hate losing. We’re here to win. We just ran into a good pitcher tonight and he did what he had to do and it was a well-played game by both sides.
From here down to the wire it’s all about wins.
“Yeah, if you want to make the playoffs,” Romero said. “We’re not here for personal stats. Our goal since spring training has been to get into the playoffs and everything else will dictate from there. We’ve got to take it one game at a time and just get Ws.”
The last time Romero faced Masterson was in the opening game of the season in Cleveland. That one took 16 innings and five hours, 14 minutes to play before the Jays emerged with a 7-4 triumph thanks to a three-run home run by J.P. Arencibia.
No offensive heroics for the Jays this time.
No one needed to get away from the game for a spell more than Romero.
The left-hander ended the opening half with an 8-4 record and bloated 5.22 earned-run average.
Suffering command issues in most of his 18 starts, Romero has surrendered 58 walks in 110 1/3 innings. After his start against the Mets back on May 18, Romero was 5-1 with a 3.64 ERA. Since then, over nine starts, he has gone 3-3 with a 7.06 ERA.
Romero opened up with a 1-2-3 first inning but the start of the second didn’t go as well as Hafner led off with a solo home run.
The inning could have gotten out of hand but, with two on and two out, Romero struck out Jack Hannahan to end the uprising.
Romero also got in trouble in the fourth when, following a one-out walk, Michael Brantley poked a ball up the third-base line for a double, which moved Carlos Santana to third.
But once again, Romero didn’t blink.
On a 3-2 pitch to Lou Marson, Romero fired a high hard one and got Marson to chase a fastball out of the zone.
One of Romero’s old nemeses, Johnny Damon, came up — he entered the game with a career mark of 12-for-23 vs. Romero — but on the first pitch he hit a routine grounder to short and the inning was over.
The sixth inning called for another Houdini act when, with two out, the Indians hit back-to-back singles. Romero once again was up to the challenge and retired Marson after he hit a nubber that Romero fielded and threw to first for the out.
After the sixth inning and 95 pitches, Romero’s night was done. Over that time, he allowed the one run on six hits, walked two and struck out six.
He deserved better.
The Jays face a lot of tough sledding over their final 76 games of the season. After three home games against Cleveland, Toronto heads out on the road for a three-game series against the New York Yankees followed by three games against the Boston Red Sox.
In fact, over the remainder of the season, the Jays will face the Yankees 16 times, Boston nine times and Tampa Bay 10 times. Yikes!
Jays manager John Farrell was asked if the Jays face any added pressure to get off to a solid second-half start over the next few weeks?
“No, no added pressure. No different than the first 86 games we’ve played,” Farrell said. “Every series is important. The fact is we’ve got six teams that are either in the same or very similar situation in terms of the win-loss record and where we stand in contention for a spot two-and-a-half, three months from now. Tonight is an important game and this is an important series.”