You have to wonder how much pressure Ricky Romero is putting on himself right now, and how much it’s working to his detriment.
With the Blue Jays rotation falling to pieces behind him — as of right now, he’s the only surviving member over the last two weeks, even though Henderson Alvarez is expected to make his next start — never have the Jays needed the ace-ness of Romero more than they do right now, and he is well aware of it. Not just to keep the ballclub in a playoff race, which they most certainly still are, but to just keep everything from completely falling apart.
Romero’s had a disappointing season so far despite the fact he carried an 8-1 record into the series finale at Fenway, and the disappointment may well have reached its apex with his brutal outing in Boston.
Romero was off from the get-go, walking two of the first three hitters he faced (on four pitches each) and giving up a rocket double to right-centre in between. He struggled through a 43-pitch first inning in which he allowed six runs (aided and abetted by Edwin Encarnacion’s complete whiff on an Adrian Gonzalez grounder to his left), then issued another pair of walks in the second. He escaped the third inning unscathed thanks in large part to an incredible defensive play by Yunel Escobar, then went walk-double in the fourth and hit the showers.
In all, Romero threw 90 pitches to record just nine outs, and allowed nine runs (eight earned) on seven hits, walking six (one shy of his career-high) and striking out only one. Other than the fact that he walked off the mound with a healthy elbow, it couldn’t have gone worse for the Blue Jays ace.
Romero has made 16 starts this season, only two of which could be classified as “really good,” and both of them were in April. He hasn’t been himself this season, not at all, and now he’s pitching with the weight of the entire pitching staff on his shoulders.
There’s no simple answer to the question of what’s wrong with Ricky Romero. Some suggest he’s hiding an injury because he doesn’t want to be yet another one of the starters on the staff to go down. It’s possible, I guess, but I really do think he’s smarter than that.
What it really comes down to, as it does with any pitcher, is fastball command. If you can’t throw your fastball for strikes, then you can’t use that fastball to set up your off-speed stuff and you find yourself pitching from behind most of the time which leads to much ugliness. Romero has had a hard time commanding his fastball pretty much all season long.
He’s the only one of the Blue Jays’ young pitchers to have followed a linear development track that goes straight upward over the course of his big-league career, with each season having been better than the one before. That’s exceedingly rare, and so it shouldn’t be a complete surprise that he’s struggled. It’s certainly not fun to watch, though, and unlike years past Romero has been saved by his offence far more often than not. Even with his ERA closing in on 5.00, the Blue Jays have won 11 of Romero’s 16 starts this season.
The good news in the Blue Jays loss came in the terrific relief efforts of Jesse Chavez and Luis Perez, who combined for five innings of one-run, three-hit ball and set down the last 11 Red Sox in order. More good news was Jose Bautista’s 25th home run of the season, which went clear out of Fenway Park and dented the roof of a jeep in a parking lot across the street. It was Bautista’s 13th big fly in the month of June — no Blue Jay had ever hit that many homers in any single month, ever. And he still has three games to go.
Those three games will all be at home against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the opener featuring Brett Cecil against Halos righty Danny Haren on Thursday night. We’ll be on the air across the Blue Jays Radio Network starting at 7:00 p.m. ET — join us, won’t you?