The swagger seems to have gone and the numbers are getting ugly.
Toronto Blue Jays starter Ricky Romero just can’t get on track and the losses are really starting to pile up.
Romero lasted just four-plus innings Wednesday night as Toronto dropped a 3-2 decision to the Seattle Mariners at Rogers Centre. It was yet another inconsistent outing from the Blue Jays starter, who has dropped a team-record 13 straight decisions.
The left-hander said he feels fine physically but doesn’t have an answer for why he’s mired in his long slump.
“I don’t even know anymore,” Romero said. “It’s been tough but you just have to get ready for the next one.”
Miguel Olivo homered and Kyle Seager had three hits as Seattle (69-74) won its second straight game over Toronto (64-77). Kevin Millwood (6-12) and four relievers combined to allow only two Blue Jays hits on the night.
Edwin Encarnacion belted his 39th home run of the season for Toronto in the fourth inning. The Seattle bullpen took over in the sixth and held the Blue Jays without a hit the rest of the way.
Tom Wilhelmsen pitched the ninth for his 26th save.
Romero’s skid is the longest in the major leagues this season and the longest for a Blue Jay in a single year.
While he managed to get out of a few jams, the Mariners had little trouble putting runners on base. Romero’s location was off and Seattle made him pay with steady hitting and a few good breaks.
A look of disappointment was often etched on Romero’s face. The steely look of confidence that he displayed at the start of the season has been replaced by regular grimaces and deep sighs.
When manager John Farrell started to walk out of the dugout to pull his starter from the game, Romero casually kicked the resin bag by the mound.
His night was ending early yet again and the long run of futility would continue.
“You want to stay in but I understand the situation,” Romero said. “The pitch count is getting up. It was my bad. Two innings where I had two outs and I walked the next guy. So I got in trouble myself and that (fifth) inning, I just got a little off track.”
Romero sat down on the dugout bench with a blank look on his face. He eventually buried his face in his hands.
“It’s part of baseball, you know,” Olivo said. “Last year, early in the season he was untouchable. A lot of people go through that. I know he’s a good pitcher.
“He’s one of the toughest lefties you can face.”
Olivo opened the scoring in the second inning with a rainbow solo homer that just cleared the wall in left-centre field. The Mariners followed with a pair of singles before Romero got out of the jam with a strikeout and flyout.
Seattle padded its lead with a pair of runs in the fourth.
Brandon Ryan drew a two-out walk and moved to third when Dustin Ackley sliced a pitch into left field that bounced into the seats for a ground-rule double.
Franklin Gutierrez drove in both runners with a single to right field. Toronto outfielder Moises Sierra had a chance to throw out Ackley at home plate but his throw was offline.
Millwood retired the first 10 batters in order before finally giving up a walk to Colby Rasmus.
Encarnacion followed with his no-doubt blast into the second deck in left field. He moved just one homer away from Texas Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton, who entered play Wednesday night leading the major leagues with 40 home runs.
Romero (8-14) was pulled after putting two runners on to open the fifth inning.
“You want to give Ricky an opportunity to work through some things and yet we had seen in the previous innings multiple runners on base every inning,” Farrell said. “It felt like it was time to get him at that point.”
Romero gave up eight hits, three earned runs and walked four batters. He posted three strikeouts and threw just 48 of his 87 pitches for strikes.
It was the ninth time this season that he has walked more batters than he has struck out. Still, Farrell plans to give Romero the start on Tuesday in New York.
“As I stated earlier this month and in August, we’re not abandoning Ricky Romero,” Farrell said. “We’re going to continue to work with him, we’re going to continue to finish this year on a positive note and that is our intent going forward.”
Romero has shown flashes of his former self over his slump. He was solid in a 2-1 loss to New York on Aug. 28 and the run support that helped him post regular victories early in the season disappeared in stretches over the summer.
He just can’t seem to shake the tendency of getting into regular jams.
“The guy has been an all-star, he’s young, he’s got great ability,” Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos said before the game. “I just don’t think this impacts his career. It’s about getting back on track and going back to being the great starter that we know he can be.”
Steve Delabar relieved Romero and struck out Olivo before walking Mike Carp to load the bases. He settled down and got Trayvon Robinson and Ryan on strikeouts.
Toronto’s bullpen was also solid, giving up just one hit over four innings.
Only 13,519 fans took in the action. The roof was open at Rogers Centre for the duration of the two-hour 55-minute game.
Notes: Romero now shares the franchise record for consecutive losses with Tom Underwood, who lost 13 in a row over the 1978 and ’79 campaigns. ... The Blue Jays’ 2013 regular-season schedule was released earlier Wednesday. Toronto will open at home against the Cleveland Indians on April 2. There will be no increase in ticket prices next year, the team said in a release. ... Toronto’s Henderson Alvarez (8-12) will square off against Felix Hernandez (13-7) in Thursday’s series finale. ... The Mariners have won five of their last six road games.