Romero chased early as Blue Jays lose

Romero chased early as Blue Jays lose

Romero chased early as Blue Jays lose
TORONTO -- In what's beginning to sound like a broken record, Ricky Romero's tumultuous 2012 season continues to spiral out of control.

Unable to build off what manager John Farrell described as his best start of the season his last time out in New York, Romero was torched yet again on Sunday, turning in the shortest outing of his four-year Major League career.

Romero was tagged for seven runs and failed to make it out of the second inning in a 9-4 drubbing by the Rays in front of 18,568 at Rogers Centre on Sunday.

"There is no excuse, I've just been getting beat. You're going to see me with my head held high, there is nothing I should be ashamed of," Romero said. "Those performances have been rough."

Romero has had many shaky outings this season. But after having plenty of positives to take from his two-run, seven-inning performance at Yankee Stadium, this one is especially troubling -- something Romero admitted himself.

The 27-year-old, who was unable to record a single out in the second inning for the first time in his career, lasted one inning plus seven batters, allowing seven runs on eight hits while walking one.

Romero struggled in the first but allowed just one run before a relentless attack by the Rays forced him from the game the following inning.

The left-hander surrendered a homer to former Blue Jays outfielder Ben Francisco to start the frame, then issued a walk before allowing five consecutive hits -- including a two-run single to Ben Zobrist -- which prompted manager John Farrell to take the ball out of his hand. Romero left the mound to a mixture of applause and boos.

"It's tough to hear boos from your own fans," Romero said.

After starting the season 8-1, Romero is 0-12 in his last 13 starts -- failing to record a win since a June 22 outing in Miami. His ERA is 7.98 over that stretch, and a Major League-worst 5.85 on the season among qualified starters.

Romero has received advice from many people inside and outside of the organization, including the pitcher he opposed on Sunday, David Price, and Rays third baseman Evan Longoria. The team has tried a number of different things, but have been unable to solve his struggles.

"I feel for him. I love Ricky as a person. I know he's going through a tough stretch right now, overall," Longoria said. "I know he's battling and he's a tough guy, but he was a little bit off today."

Farrell, who called Romero's roller-coaster season a "unique situation," is hoping some extra rest will get him back on track. The team has three off-days left for the remainder of the season, and will turn to a six-man rotation later in the month.

"At this point, we don't have any plans [to shut] him down," Farrell said.

"We recognize the struggles that he has had, and we also recognize that he has been a very good pitcher previous to this year. The wide swings, that's a little puzzling."

Romero, who pitched on seven days' rest before his start in the Bronx, doesn't feel he needs any extra days off.

"I'm a starter in the big leagues, and I have to be ready to go every fifth day," Romero said.

While Romero has been a victim of little run support, having entered the outing with a Major League-low 1.89 runs of support since the All-Star break. He has allowed at least six earned runs on six occasions and is averaging just over five innings pitched per outing over his forgettable 13-start stretch.

His 12-game losing streak, which is the longest in the Majors this season, is one off the club record for consecutive losses set by Tom Underwood in 1978-79.

Tabbed as the team's ace at the beginning of the season, Romero has taken a major step backward after a career year in 2011. Romero was supposed to anchor Toronto's staff after setting personal bests with a 2.92 ERA and 13 wins last season. But he now sits at 8-13, and has issued an American League-leading 90 walks, while his quality-start percentage is below 50 percent.

"It's worn on me. I was born a winner, and going through something like this, I [would] never wish [it] upon anyone," Romero said.

"You can't dwell on the past, you can't dwell on stuff that has happened. Eventually, you think that it is going to turn around. For some reason, for me it has taken a while."

Price, Tampa Bay's ace, allowed two runs over 6 2/3 innings to tie for the Major League lead with his 17th win of the season. He walked four and struck out five while lowering his ERA to 2.54 -- the second-best mark in the AL.

Down 9-2 in the ninth, Blue Jays slugger Edwin Encarnacion hit a two-run homer, his 37th of the year and third in as many days. Encarnacion, who ranks second in the Majors in home runs, has gone deep six times over his last 12 games.

The Blue Jays, losers of 10 of their past 15 at home, split their four-game set with the Rays and fell to 17-30 since the All-Star break. Toronto will continue its seven-game homestand on Monday against the surging Orioles.

Chris Toman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.