TORONTO - After losing his 12th decision in a row, Ricky Romero admitted that he was out of answers.
"What else can I say? It's worn on me," the Toronto pitcher said after the Blue Jays lost 9-4 to the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday. "I was born a winner. Going through something like this, I would never wish upon anyone. It’s tough."
Romero (8-13) did not get an out from seven batters in Tampa Bay's six-run second inning. He was charged with seven runs on eight hits and a walk and did not strike out a batter on his one-plus innings. His earned-run average increased to 5.85.
He was surprised by the way things turned out because he had pitched so well on Aug. 28 despite taking the loss against the New York Yankees, allowing two runs in seven innings.
"We had the same game plan as the one we had in New York," he said. "It just didn't work. You know, just getting ahead with fastballs and stuff like that. They came out aggressive. I was ahead of some guys but just wasn't able to put them away."
The left-hander has not won in his 13 starts since June 22 at Miami, when he beat the Marlins to go to 8-1 with a 4.34 ERA.
"At this point we don't have any plans on shutting him down," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said. "We've got Thursday off followed by next Monday's off day, there’s going to be some built-in rest."
Rays' left-hander David Price (17-5) got the win, allowing six hits, four walks and two runs and hit a batter while striking out five in 6 2/3 innings. Price is 12-2 with a 2.29 ERA in his career against Toronto.
Ben Francisco and Carlos Pena hit home runs for the Rays, who had a season-high 18 hits.
"You're going to see me with my head held high," Romero said. "It's nothing I should be ashamed of as tough as it has been out there. The 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 to battle every day and it’s tough for me. It’s been stressful."
The Blue Jays had eight hits including Edwin Encarnacion's 37th homer of the season that scored two runs with two out in the ninth against Cesar Ramos.
It was the second win in a row for the Rays (73-61), who split the four-game series with the Blue Jays (60-73).
Desmond Jennings started the game with a single, took second on a bunt by B.J. Upton and scored on a double by Evan Longoria that left-fielder Rajai Davis played poorly.
Francisco, who began the season with Toronto and was acquired by Tampa Bay from Houston on Friday, led off the second with a home run.
Jennings singled in another run and Upton's fly to right went for a single when Moises Sierra lost the ball in the sun.
Ben Zobrist singled in two runs and Chad Jenkins replaced Romero. Jeff Keppinger scored the final run of the inning with a grounder to third.
"One of those days, we came out early, got some runs early," Upton said. "Swung the bats well. David was himself today and big win finishing the road trip and definitely what we need going into face the Yankees tomorrow. Definitely a big win and did the way we wanted to."
Pena led off the third with his 17th homer of the season. A double by Longoria, an infield single by Keppinger and a double by Francisco increased the lead to 9-0 in the fourth.
"We got off well against Romero," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "Ben had a nice day. Up and down the lineup, good stuff. We got him for a reason and heck he almost had another one. He hit some balls really well."
Toronto was kept off the scoreboard until it loaded the bases with one out in the seventh on two infield hits and a walk. Encarnacion drove in a run with a sacrifice fly on a foul out to first. Adam Lind's infield hit resulted in another run.
But by then Romero was on the way to another loss.
"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 to this year. The wide swings, that's a little puzzling. I'm sure Ricky would acknowledge it’s frustrating as well. You go from a seven-inning outing in New York where all his stuff is working, he's got great action through the strike zone, and then to have an outing like today.
"They happen and there’s been many cases where it does happen. And we've tried a number of things with Ricky. We all share and we all have lived the challenges and the frustrations that he's going through. But this is a unique situation."
Notes: Attendance at Rogers Centre was 18,568.... The Rays who entered the Sunday 4 1/2 games out of first in the American League East are home for three games with the division-leading New York Yankees starting Monday. ...The Blue Jays plan to finish the season with a six-man rotation but it has not been determined when it will start. Left-hander Aaron Laffey will return from the bullpen to the rotation when it does and when left-hander Brett Cecil returns from triple-A Las Vegas Monday he will become a reliever again. ....Right-hander Carlos Villanueva (7-4, 3.10 earned-run average) will start for the Blue Jays Monday in the opener of a three-game series against the Baltimore Orioles who will start left-hander Joe Saunders (0-1, 10.13 ERA).