TORONTO - Playing with a depleted bullpen after a pair of trades, the Toronto Blue Jays really needed starter Ricky Romero to eat some innings.
He did more than that — he almost went the distance against the Baltimore Orioles.
Romero pitched 8 1/3 shutout innings as the Jays beat the Orioles 3-0 Wednesday. He pitched so well, he made a first-inning RBI from a clearly recovered Jose Bautista stand up.
"On a night when we needed Ricky to go deep he certainly did that. He got into a much better rhythm from the third inning on,” said Jays manager John Farrell. "There was a much more consistent feel to his curveball and his cutter and did just an outstanding job tonight."
Bautista got the start at third base just a night after being hit in the head with a 91 m.p.h. fastball in the third inning of Tuesday's 12-4 loss to the Orioles. He was removed from that game as a precaution, but appeared to show no ill effects on Wednesday.
Yunel Escobar led off the game Wednesday with a single to right field off Orioles starter Alfredo Simon (2-4). After advancing to second on an Eric Thames ground ball out, Bautista brought home the shortstop in with a single to left.
The Orioles (41-59) looked to respond quickly by getting their first two men on base with a pair of singles in the second inning, but Romero got out of trouble by getting third basemen Mark Reynolds to ground into a double play. He followed two batters later by getting second baseman Blake Davis to fly out to centre.
"(Romero has) got a lot of pitches. He always gets you out. He started to command the curveball," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "All of his pitches were in the hitter's mindset because he's around was the plate with them.
"There wasn't one you could box out. A lot of the times with starters, because of command issues on a certain pitch, you can box it out. You couldn't do that tonight."
The Blue Jays (52-52) evened the three-game series at a win apiece.
Romero allowed only four base runners and only one past second base as he started the ninth. In all, Romero (8-9) struck out eight, including four strikeouts against Orioles leadoff hitter J.J. Hardy. The win was his first since June 26 over the St. Louis Cardinals, which was also his last complete game.
"My job no matter what is to try and throw a complete game. No matter whether it's eight guys available or five guys available," Romero said. "Under the circumstances today they definitely need me and I was happy to come through."
Thames doubled Toronto's lead in the second with a single to right with two out that drove in Rajai Davis who had stolen both second and third bases earlier in the inning.
The two steals, numbers 30 and 31 on the season for Davis, moved him into a tie for first in the American League with New York Yankees’ outfielder Brett Gardner.
After a scoreless third inning, Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia got the Jays back on the board with two out in the fourth with a solo home run. The homer, number 16 on the season for the rookie, moved him ahead of Cleveland Indians’ catcher Carlos Santana for most homers by a catcher in the American League.
Bautista could have added to his team leading 71 RBIs, but he struck out with the bases loaded and two out in the sixth. However, he showed his defensive prowess when he made a leaping catch off a line drive off the bat of Orioles second baseman in eighth.
"It was good to see J.P. hit one into the seats. We had a couple opportunities to spread (the game) open a little bit but the bases loaded situation didn’t quite work out," Farrell said.
Farrell had John Rauch warming up in the bullpen to start the ninth, but the 16,861 fans on hand at Rogers Centre gave Romero a cheer as he ran from the dugout to start the inning.
Rauch was called upon with one out in the inning after Romero allowed two base runners. He struck out Vladimir Guerrero, but Guerrero got on after Romero's wild pitch on the third strike. He then hit Derrek Lee.
Rauch picked up his eighth save in 11 chances by striking out catcher Matt Wieters before getting Reynolds to fly out to left.