The talk before the game was how Ricky Romero, coming off perhaps his best start of the season, could start rebuilding his confidence for next year with continued solid outings from here on in.
He better start soon as time is running out.
Romero’s mystifying season of despair continued on Sunday as he suffered the indignity of his shortest career start, failing to record an out in the second inning after getting slapped around by the Tampa Bay Rays at Rogers Centre.
The final score was 9-4 for Tampa (73-61) over Toronto (60-73), with Romero on the hook for seven of the runs.
Six of them came in the sad second, where Toronto manager John Farrell mercifully pulled him from the game after Romero (8-13) allowed seven consecutive Tampa batters to reach base.
Romero has now lost a club-record 12 straight decisions, not having recorded a win since June 22 against the Miami Marlins.
“It’s worn on me,” a sombre Romero said afterward. “I was born a winner and going through something like this I’d never wish upon anyone.”
The lone highlight from a Blue Jays perspective came with two out in the ninth inning when Edwin Encarnacion lifted his 37th home run of the season, a two-run shot that made the score appear a little more respectable.
And now the debate can begin as to which outing can be rated as Romero’s worst, this one in which he allowed the seven Tampa runs off eight hits, or the game against Oakland back on July 25 when he was stung for eight runs off four hits during 1 1/3 innings of work.
That matters little to Romero, who started to hear the boos from some of the 18,568 in attendance early in the second inning when the Rays started to pile up hit after hit.
His primary concern is to try to figure out what has gone so horribly wrong on a season that he entered with such high expectations after a solid campaign in 2011 in which he went 15-11 with a 2.92 earned-run average.
“There’s nothing I should be ashamed of,” Romero said. “As tough as it’s been out there, those performances have been rough. It’s tough. It’s tough to hear boos from your own fans, it’s tough to see your teammates. They’re going out there battling every day and it’s tough for me … stressful.”
It was hoped that Romero had turned a corner on his season on Tuesday in his previous outing where he held New York to five hits and two runs in a 2-1 Yankees victory.
“It might have been the best game he’s pitched all year in my eyes, in terms of the action of his stuff, the confidence in which he pitched,” Farrell said before Sunday’s contest.
None of that was evident in his outing against the Rays in which Romero threw just 43 pitches, far too many of them over the meaty part of the plate that proved easy pickings for the Tampa hitters.
Romero wasn’t helped any when right-fielder Moises Sierra lost a high fly ball off the bat of B.J. Upton in the sun in the second inning that dropped in for a single that loaded the bases.
The score was already 4-0 for Tampa so it was just more salt in the wound when Ben Zobrist followed with a single that scored two more runs.
Romero said he is out of answers to what has ailed him as is Farrell, who said he will continue to throw Romero out on the mound every fifth day.
“First of all, we recognize the struggles that he’s had,” Farrell said. “And we also recognize that he’s been a very good pitcher previous prior to this year. The wide swings, that’s a little puzzling. I’m sure Ricky would acknowledge it’s frustrating as well.”
The Blue Jays announced that reliever Jason Frasor, who has been recovering from an arm injury, will rejoin the team on Monday as will pitcher Brett Cecil, who is being called up from Triple-A.