His bullpen weary and the offence sputtering, Toronto Blue Jays acting manager Don Wakamatsu at least found some solace that he was sending Ricky Romero to the mound Monday night against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Romero has been like a human life preserver for the Blue Jays, with 20 quality starts in his 26 outings this season and wins in five consecutive decisions heading into the Tampa start.
After a rocky beginning, the left-hander came through again, benefiting from some timely hitting as the Blue Jays (67-67) rallied for a 7-3 victory Monday night at Rogers Centre, their first win of the four-game set against their American League East brethren.
It didn’t look good early on for the Blue Jays, whose ratty play of late had dropped their record to back under .500, their losing skid up to four games.
Romero issued a four-pitch walk to Tampa leadoff hitter Desmond Jennings in the first inning.
Johnny Damon, the next batter, then greeted Romero with a line drive home-run shot to right that lifted the Rays into a quick 2-0 lead. It was one of two home runs that Damon stroked in the game.
The Blue Jays responded in the third when a Jose Bautista groundout scored Yunel Escobar.
Eric Thames then doubled and he came around to score on an Adam Lind home run that put Toronto in front 3-2.
The timely hitting was gratifying for Dwayne Murphy, the Toronto hitting coach who has not been a happy camper of late.
In their previous 10 games, the Blue Jays were hitting a collective .192, averaging a mind-bending 10.1 strikeouts in each contest. The Blue Jays averaged just 2.9 runs during that span and just 6.2 hits.
“I’ve not been very happy with the approach,” Murphy said. “I’m trying to get these guys back on their approach. We’ve got to keep battling and going for it.
“But I just think we’ve gotten a little passive at the plate. That’s what happens, you get behind and you allow these pitchers to use their out pitches to get you out, it’s really tough to hit then.”
Lind was obviously listening.
He was batting .170 over his past 12 games and given Sunday off for a rest by Wakamatsu. The home run was his 23rd of the year.
Romero lasted six innings, allowing three runs off six hits to improve to 13-9.
BAUTISTA LIGHTS IT UP
Jose Bautista came into the game having slipped into second place in the major-league home run race behind Curtis Granderson of the New York Yankees. Bautista moved back into a tie with Granderson, cranking home run No. 38, a solo shot to left in the sixth inning that provided Toronto with a 7-3 lead.
FARRELL STAYS BEHIND
Toronto manager John Farrell, who is ill with pneumonia, wasn’t with the team when it departed after the game for Baltimore, where they will play a three-game series, beginning Tuesday. The 49-year-old has not been with the team since last Thursday night when he left the game against the Kansas City Royals in ninth inning after taking ill. Farrell came to Rogers Centre Monday afternoon with the intention of managing the game against the Rays. “Still feeling a little shaky so we’ve made the decision that he will not be with us in the Baltimore series,” said Wakamatsu, who has been managing the team in Farrell’s absence. “And we’ll evaluate him and see when he’ll be able to return at that point.”
ALMOST A GREAT CATCH
New Toronto centre fielder Dewayne Wise ran a mile to catch up to a long drive off the bat of Evan Longoria in the third, throwing himself up against the wall to try to grab the ball. He just missed it and Longoria scampered all the way to third. Longoria then got stranded off third after a nice fielding play by Romero and was out in a run-down.
TALLET GETS THE CALL
The Blue Jays made a roster move on Monday, recalling reliever Brian Tallet from the 15-day disabled list. The left-hander, who has recovered from a muscle strain in his rib cage, was slated to arrive in time to be in uniform against the Rays.