If the Blue Jays shook a monkey off their backs by winning the nightcap of Monday’s doubleheader with the Orioles to snap a seven-game losing streak, it was one of those tiny little wind-up monkeys with the red fez that plays the cymbals when you wind it up compared to the one that dropped off of Ricky Romero.
Romero surely wasn’t at his best, but he came out of the fifth inning still in the game and with the Blue Jays ahead by a run, which made it the first time in three months and two days that Romero had been the pitcher of record to win a game. That’s not the first time since June 22 that Romero had come out of a game as the pitcher of record to win it, but that it was the first time since June 22 that — at any point in any game — Ricky Romero would have been the winning pitcher had the game ended right there and then.
As I mentioned, Romero wasn’t great — he allowed three runs on six hits through those five innings, walking three and hitting another. To be fair, though, two of those runs came in the second inning, and they were scored on a little flare to shallow centre that fell in for a hit and a pair of ground ball singles, the second of which couldn’t have been rolled any better to just scoot through between Brett Lawrie and Yunel Escobar.
After Moises Sierra homered (on his 24th birthday, no less) to put the Blue Jays up 5-3 going to the bottom of the sixth, I was very surprised to see Romero head back out to the mound to work the bottom of the inning. The thinking was that here was a chance to hand things off to what’s been a very good bullpen and let them take it the rest of the way, and see if they could get Romero a win.
But out Ricky came, and he gave up a leadoff double to Robert Andino. Again, I’m thinking, time for Romero to hit the showers so that a reliever can come in without having to deal with the tying run being on base. But Ricky stayed in to give up a single to Taylor Teagarden and then walk Nate McLouth to load the bases before John Farrell came out and got him.
Maybe this was John Farrell showing faith in Romero’s ability to extricate himself from a jam, unlike a couple of starts ago in Seattle, when Ricky was removed in the fifth inning with the Blue Jays down only one run. That night, Romero was rather demonstrative with his frustration at being removed. But it seemed to run counter to the idea of getting Romero a positive result at all costs before season’s end.
With the bases loaded and nobody out in a two-run game, though, Farrell had no choice, and surprisingly went to Brad Lincoln, who in two prior appearances on this road trip had allowed nine runs on eight hits (including three home runs) and two walks while recording only five outs.
Lincoln gave up an RBI single to J.J. Hardy on the first pitch he threw, and suddenly another no-decision for Romero was only 90 feet away while a potential loss stood in scoring position with none out and the Orioles’ best hitter at the plate. But Lincoln struck out Adam Jones and then got Chris Davis to hit a fly ball to left field. Anthony Gose — who had moved to left from centre that very inning as a result of Colby Rasmus coming in to pinch-hit (and strike out) for Rajai Davis in the top of the frame — caught the ball and fired an absolute bullet to the plate to double up Teagarden, who was coming home attempting to score the tying run.
Inning over, lead intact, and lead extended in the top of the seventh when J.P. Arencibia belted his first home run since returning from the disabled list. It just happened to be his second career Grand Slam.
The Orioles didn’t threaten again until the bottom of the ninth, when they loaded the bases with none out against Casey Janssen, bringing the tying run to the on-deck circle, but a double-play grounder and strikeout later, the Blue Jays were in the win column for the first time since they left Rogers Centre for their final road trip of the season; a trip on which they’re now 1-7. Romero was in the win column for the first time since June 22, ending the 13-decision losing streak that set a single-season Blue Jays record for futility. Amazingly, the win moved Romero into a tie for the team lead in that category, with Henderson Alvarez.
Alvarez pitched the opener, and looked terrific through four innings — the only damage being a two-run homer by Jones — but he got roughed up in the fifth and sixth and the Blue Jays didn’t score a run while he was in the game, leaving two men on in each of the first, third and fourth. It was an uninspired, flat performance by the offense in what was their seventh straight loss, leading many people to state unequivocally that the Blue Jays had quit on the season — an opinion thoroughly contradicted by the Jays’ performance in the second game of the evening.
It requires mentioning as well that Omar Vizquel played second base in that second game, and went 2-for-5 with a single and a double. That would be three straight two-hit games for the 45-year-old, who is in the final fortnight of his major-league career. Granted, those three games have come over the space of eight days, and it should be noted that while Vizquel has been racking up multi-hit efforts, regular second baseman Kelly Johnson has hit .300/.333/.500 in 20 at-bats. Neither of them will be with the Blue Jays next year, but it’s been a lot of fun watching Vizquel climb the all-time hit chart these last couple of weeks — next up, Frankie Frisch!
I’ll be missing the next couple of Blue Jays broadcasts, with Yom Kippur (the holiest day on the Jewish calendar) beginning at sundown Tuesday and continuing until an hour after sundown on Wednesday, so please enjoy Roger Lajoie in my place. No doubt he’ll do an admirable job filling in. I’ll be back on the airwaves on Thursday when the Blue Jays come back to Toronto to begin their final homestand of the season with four against the Yankees and three against the Twins to wrap things up. They have to win six of their final nine games in order to avoid a 90-loss season, but only two to avoid having their worst season since — believe it or not — 1979.
Please don’t let my absence from the airwaves stop you from casting your daily vote for Tom Cheek to win the Ford C. Frick Award, though. Make sure to remember to honour the memory of the true Voice of the Blue Jays. He was really the Voice of Summer across Canada for 28 years until being silenced by brain cancer. Tom was with the Blue Jays on the day they were born, April 7th, 1977, and called every single game they ever played until June of 2004, when his streak ended at 4,306 games so that he could attend his father’s funeral. A week later, we were horrified to find out about the illness that would take him from us 18 months later at the age of 65.
Please go to www.facebook.com/baseballhall and like the page, then click on ’13 Frick Voting and cast your vote for Tom. There are 41 names on the ballot, and only the top three are guaranteed a spot on the final ballot that will go to the Frick voters, who will choose who is enshrined in the Broadcasters’ Wing in Cooperstown. Let’s do our best to make sure it’s Tom. Thank you!