Toronto ace Ricky Romero continued to round into form Friday, but the Blue Jays' bats fell silent for a second consecutive start with their star pitcher on the mound as the Cleveland Indians posted a 1-0 shutout victory.
Romero, who lost 2-0 to Chicago last Saturday, has dropped four straight starts as Toronto once again finds itself under .500 at 43-44.
"If we want to make the playoffs (it's all about team victories). We're not here for personal stats. Our goal since spring training has been to get into the playoffs and everything else will dictate from there," said Romero, who battled for six innings, allowing six hits and two walks while striking out six to drop to 8-5 on the season.
"You go through your ups and your downs in this game and you've got to be mentally strong and I feel like I'm doing the best I can," he said. "I know I'll continue to get better and lead this team in the right direction."
Travis Hafner's solo shot in the second inning was all the offence Cleveland (45-41) needed behind a strong outing from Justin Masterson, who gave up just five singles while striking out five and surrendering one walk in the first game for both clubs after the all-star break.
Vinnie Pestano pitched a perfect eighth for Cleveland, while Chris Perez did the same in the ninth to pick up his 25th save. The Cleveland closer struck out Edwin Encarnacion swinging for the final out, a day after the Toronto first baseman signed a three-year, US$27-million contract extension.
"They threw the ball exceptionally well against us tonight," said Blue Jays manager John Farrell, whose team is in the mix in the American League wildcard race but will need to string some wins together to stay in the hunt. "I thought Ricky pitched a good game, as did every guy that came out of the bullpen tonight.
A 1-0 loss is tough to take but in the end we're a swing of the bat away from tying it up."
Romero, who came in with the third best run support among American League starters, has now gone 13 innings dating back to July 2 without the Blue Jays providing him any offence.
"You have top tip your hat off to (Masterson). He threw a hell of a game. Kept us off balance all night and for me it's not about personal (wins)," said Romero. "Obviously you want to get off on the right note (after the all-star break) in the win column.
"One bad pitch. Again. Just hung a curveball to Hafner and he took advantage of it."
Romero got out of trouble in the fourth when Carlos Santana walked with one out and Michael Brantley doubled to put runners at second and third. But the left-hander struck out Lou Marson swinging and got Johnny Damon to ground out to short.
The Blue Jays finally got a runner into scoring position in the fifth when Yunel Escobar got to first on an infield single and moved to second on a wild pitch. He would get no further, though, as Masterson (6-8) induced a weak grounder to second off the bat of Kelly Johnson.
Masterson, who suffered a 10-3 loss to Tampa Bay last time out when he surrendered eight earned runs in 4 1-3 innings, said he took time away from the game during the all-star break.
"It was kind of a blessing to be back out there on the mound again," he said. "I don't think I thought about baseball at all. I maybe caught a hair of some of the all-star festivities but it was just nice to relax, just sit back and kind of do your own thing.
"I had a nice date night with my wife, ate at a little Italian restaurant. It was cool."
Romero was in more trouble in the sixth, putting runners on first and second, but he fielded a soft Marson ground in front of home himself and threw to first to escape unscathed.
Toronto put just its second runner at second in the bottom of the inning when J.P. Arencibia singled and advanced on a fielder's choice. But again Masterson had an answer, getting Colby Rasmus to ground out.
The Indians got a runner to third in the seventh, but Jason Frasor, on in relief of Romero, got Asdrubal Cabrera to pop out after an eight-pitch at-bat for the third out.
The Blue Jays again threatened in the seventh when Encarnacion walked and Adam Lind walked, but Masterson struck out Escobar and got Johnson to ground into a force out.
"Anytime you lose it's frustrating, whether you lose 10-0 or 1-0. I've always said I'm a sore loser," said Romero. "I hate losing and we're here to win. We just ran into a good pitcher tonight and he did what he had to do and it was a well-played game by both sides."
Notes: The Blue Jays added LHP Aaron Loup to the roster. He replaces LHP Luis Perez, who is done for the season and was placed on the 60-day disabled list retroactive to July 9 with a torn ligament in his pitching elbow. ... Encarnacion's new contract includes a team option worth $10 million for the 2016 season. ... Blue Jays third baseman Brett Lawrie returned to the starting lineup after missing Sunday's game with lower back tightness. ... Injured Blue Jays starter Brandon Morrow threw his first bullpen session since straining his left oblique muscle last month. The right-hander didn't experience any pain Friday, but Farrell said Morrow is still a long way off from returning to the rotation. ... Attendance at Rogers Centre was 32,308. ... Toronto's last 1-0 home loss came June 23, 2010, against St. Louis. ... Jose Bautista, who finished second in the Home Run Derby at the all-star game, finished the night 0-for-4. ... Encarnacion wound up 0-for-3 with a walk.