Romero unable to reverse trend against Mariners

Romero unable to reverse trend against Mariners

Romero unable to reverse trend against Mariners
SEATTLE -- For the first time in recent memory Ricky Romero had a little bit of swagger back after one his starts.

Toronto's left-hander wasn't in top form against Seattle but did display flashes of his former self and more importantly regained some confidence in his fastball.

Romero surrendered four runs -- three earned -- but came out on the losing end of a 4-1 defeat at the hands of the Mariners on Monday night at Safeco Field.

"I think the biggest thing is I finally trusted my four-seam fastball," Romero said. "That's pretty much all we threw tonight. We went to the curveball when we needed to.

"You have to tip your hat to a good pitching performance by their starter. He was pretty unbelievable tonight. We weren't able to do much. You try to go out there and battle. I did what I could."

Romero entered Monday's outing with the main goal of establishing his fastball. He went to the four-seamer more frequently than in previous outings, and the line of thinking was Romero needed to establish the fastballs first before moving on to other refinements in his approach.

For the most part that worked as Romero topped out at 95 mph and did a better job of locating pitches down in the zone. But there were still times -- especially early in the game -- when fastballs were left up and ultimately attacked by Seattle hitters.

That's what led to his seventh consecutive loss, which is the second longest streak in the American League behind only Seattle's Hector Noesi. It also represents the longest skid a Blue Jays pitcher has gone through since right-hander Josh Towers lost seven straight in 2006.

Romero, who was coming off the shortest outing of his career, now owns a 9.70 ERA over his past seven outings. It has been a trying time but Romero insists the winless skid hasn't affected his mental approach.

"I've had tremendous support from every single one of these guys on this team," Romero said. "Ex-teammates, guys from other sports and that really means a lot. You just have to continue to wear that uniform proud and stay humble, that's the biggest thing.

"That's one thing that this sport does to you. It keeps you humble and it's going to continue to keep you humble, through the ups, through the downs, you've got to continue to keep going forward."

On Monday night, Romero found himself in trouble almost immediately after his first pitch. He allowed the first three batters he faced to reach base but managed to escape the frame with just two runs allowed thanks in part to a key double play off the bat of John Jaso.

Another run came around in the second because of an error on third baseman Brett Lawrie. Romero then appeared to settle down as he recorded a pair of 1-2-3 innings in the third and fourth but the fifth didn't go as smoothly.

Seattle's Brendan Ryan got things started with a double and came around to score when Michael Saunders had a double of his own. Romero was charged with four runs -- three earned -- on eight hits while striking out seven.

"I'm sure he still looks at it as similar results, but I think it was evident that the approach going in was to establish his fastball more consistently, which he did," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said.

"They bunched some hits together, but he didn't contribute by a number of walks that we've seen in recent starts. From that aspect, this was a step in the right direction for him."

Toronto's offense got off to a quick start thanks to a leadoff homer by Rajai Davis. His sixth of the year came on a 3-2 count and momentarily put the Blue Jays in front by one. From that point on, though, Toronto was unable to generate anything off Seattle right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma.

Iwakuma set a Mariners rookie record by striking out 13 batters over his eight innings. He allowed just four hits and three walks while limiting Toronto to 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position.

"I'm not interested in getting strikeouts," Iwakuma said via interpreter Daisuke Sekiba. "I'm a ground-ball pitcher. Fortunately I got 13 tonight, so I'm proud of that. And also it's my first win as a starter so that's a pretty good night."

The Blue Jays have now lost three consecutive games after going through a stretch that saw five wins in seven contests.

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.