TORONTO – Buoyed by a convincing effort that ended their worst losing streak of the season a night earlier, the Toronto Blue Jays restored more order to their world Tuesday as ace Ricky Romero regained his command and led his team to another victory.
The left-hander found his way back into the strike zone over six innings of four-run ball during an 8-6 victory over the Baltimore Orioles, most crucially walking just one batter after issuing 21 free passes over his previous 23.1 frames.
While certainly no panacea, the outing should certainly help stabilize him after a career-high seven walks last week at Tampa Bay, a performance that left him puzzled and frustrated, lamenting that he’d never experienced such a loss of control before.
This time out, Romero (6-1) featured better body language and threw first-pitch strikes to 14 of the 26 batters he faced, the bulk of the damage against him coming in a three-run sixth that cut into what had been an 8-1 lead.
“It’s one outing and there are some positives and some negatives,” Romero said quietly. “It’s mostly been getting back on my own side.
“I’ve been hard on myself this whole year, guys tell me to kind of tone it down a little bit, and get that confidence back up, but I expect so much of myself, I work so hard to go out there and have long outings and be deep in the game, and when I don’t I kick myself in the head.
“I’m my own worst critic and I’m always going to be like that, I’m a competitor and I like to win, I hate losing. It’s getting back on my own side and finding it on my own. The coaches can only do so much and talk to me about it. It’s on me to do it.”
Some nervous relief work – capped by Casey Janssen, who surrendered a two-run shot to Adam Jones in the ninth before a crowd of 17,352 – carried things home from there as the Blue Jays (26-24) won their second straight after a five-game skid, while the falling-back-to-Earth Orioles (29-21) lost a fourth straight and seventh in nine outings.
The bottom of the lineup did much of the damage against Jake Arrieta (2-6) to back Romero, with Brett Lawrie’s three hits, three RBIs and three runs leading the charge. The key blow was his two-run double in the fourth that opened up a 4-1 lead and the Orioles were faced with a hill too big for them to climb from then out.
“The biggest thing for me was I thought he stayed behind the baseball,” manager John Farrell said of Lawrie. “That’s the first time in a while he’s driven some balls, some fastballs that were up and away from him driven the other way.
“He’s been in a little bit of a tendency to rush out a little bit and those balls have been flared to right. But he was able to stay on top of it and drive some balls the other way.”
Rajai Davis, the left-fielder for now after Eric Thames’ demotion to triple-A Las Vegas earlier in the day, also had three hits and drove in a pair, but got things going with his legs in the third. Laying down a bunt after singles from Lawrie and David Cooper to open the frame, his charge down the line led Arrieta to throw the ball away into right field, allowing Lawrie to score and tie the game.
Yunel Escobar’s groundout brought home Cooper later in the third to make it 2-1.
Davis then cashed in Lawrie’s double in the fourth with a base hit to open up a 5-1 edge, and in the fifth he followed Lawrie and Cooper with a third consecutive RBI single to make it 8-1. The three hits marked a season-high for Davis, who had been in a 0-for-14 rut coming in.
“I think it’s tough, if you feel like you have to go out there and be great just to play another day,” Davis said of staying consistent through sporadic duty. “A lot more pressure on yourself as opposed to going out there and knowing you’re going to be out there … and play every day.
“It’s just a different mindset, it’s a different attitude and I think it’s just a lot easier on the player.”
Romero, meanwhile, allowed only Jones’ solo shot in the second before surrendering an RBI groundout to Mark Reynolds in the sixth followed by Chris Davis’s solo blast.
Of his 101 pitches, 66 were strikes.
“When his hands separate on time, that’s when he’s able to get the ball downhill and leverage the fastball through the strike zone with greater consistency,” said Farrell. “Whether the tempo of the game and the body language (led to) less thinking on the mound, and just executing one pitch at a time rather than thinking his way through it, I think there was a little bit more of that tonight. More like his normal self.”
Jones agreed, even though he was a thorn in Romero’s side, going 2-for-2 with a walk against him as part of a 3-for-3, two-walk, two-homer night.
“I don’t care what I’ve heard about his last start or his previous 40 starts, I could care less,” said Jones. “The guy is nasty every time he takes the mound. Me and him have a personal vendetta against each other, which is part of the game. He’s the ace of that staff, and he’s doing what they pay him to do.”
Orioles catcher Matt Wieters was ejected for the first time in his career in the fifth after Davis’s RBI single, upset over a couple of debatable ball calls by home plate umpire Dana DeMuth earlier in the at-bat.
“He gave me plenty of rope and that’s something that’s clear, you can’t argue balls and strikes,” said Wieters. “It was something where I knew I might be going there but I still had to say my piece.”
Notes: The Blue Jays held a private workout for a handful of draft eligible players Tuesday morning at the dome, with GM Alex Anthopoulos, assistant GM Tony LaCava and others looking on. … Vladimir Guerrero went 3-for-5 with homer and double as the designated hitter in single-A Dunedin’s 8-3 win over Lakeland. … A group of students from Academie Ste. Marie in Quebec formed a heart shape with the number 38 across two sections in the upper deck seats, according to the Blue Jays. They were honouring classmate Steven McAllister, who was unable to attend while he recovers from an injury suffered in an accident. His hockey jersey number is 38. … Lawrie made a great sliding catch in the ninth on Davis for the second out of the inning, racing from the deep short area where he was playing to snare the ball in foul territory. “I just took off and didn’t know if I was going to get there or not,” he said. “I ended up being there in plenty of time.”