Romero struck out 12 while tossing his first career shutout in his last start, and he’ll look to build upon that momentum Thursday afternoon while sending the Mariners to a sixth consecutive loss.
Seattle (14-26) was a popular pick to contend in the AL West with the offseason addition of Cliff Lee(notes), while the departure of Roy Halladay(notes) made Toronto (25-17) little more than an afterthought in the East.
The Blue Jays are winning with an offense that leads the majors in homers (65) and doubles (108), but they also might be developing a future ace to fill Halladay’s shoes. Romero (4-1, 2.88 ERA) has lasted at least seven innings and yielded two runs or fewer in five of his eight starts, and went the distance for the first time in his latest outing.
The left-hander limited Texas to five singles and tied a career high with 12 strikeouts Saturday in the 6-0 win.
“It was one of those days where everything was just falling,” Romero said. “I located my fastball and my cutter, my changeup and my curveball were all where I wanted the whole day.”
If there’s hope for Seattle on Thursday, it’s that Romero has at least looked somewhat beatable on the road. He’s 3-1 with a 1.74 ERA at home, limiting opponents to a .143 average, but has a 4.26 ERA and has allowed a .280 average away from Rogers Centre.
Gutierrez had two hits Wednesday against the Blue Jays, who were outhit 10-6. But while Toronto’s total included three doubles, nine of Seattle’s 10 hits were singles - two by Milton Bradley(notes) in his return to the lineup - in a 3-2 loss, the fifth straight for manager Don Wakamatsu’s club.
The Jays improved to 13-5 in May as the Mariners dropped to 3-14. Seattle is 4-11 in one-run games this season.
“I have to remain pretty strong through this thing so the club can,” Wakamatsu said. “I believe in these guys. And I believe we can turn this around.”
Even if Romero turns in another dominant performance, the Mariners may have a chance with Jason Vargas(notes) (3-2, 2.93) making his first start against Toronto. The Blue Jays are hitting .190 against left-handers, easily the worst average in the majors.
Even if that statistic weren’t working in his favor, Vargas has been solid. He held the Los Angeles Angels to one unearned run over 7 1-3 innings in an 8-1 win on May 9, and shut out Tampa Bay for the first seven innings on Saturday.
Vargas, however, allowed consecutive singles to start the eighth. Both runners came around to score, and he didn’t factor in the Mariners’ 3-2 loss.
“Vargas was outstanding,” Wakamatsu said. “He pitched a heck of a ballgame, even in the eighth inning. … I don’t blame the bullpen as much as I do being able to score runs when we have to.”
The Mariners’ 3.3 runs per game are the fewest in the AL, and they’re 3-20 when scoring three or fewer.