BOSTON - The last time the Red Sox saw Toronto ace Ricky Romero, he was pitching 8 1/3 innings against them in a 3-1 Blue Jays win back on April 11.
But Wednesday, Romero, who has had all kinds of trouble with Boston in his career, reverted back to his old form, as the Sox chased him in three-plus innings (including a six-run first) of a 10-4 rout in the rubber game of a three-game series.
"He wasn't the same pitcher today (as April 11); we recognized that early and took a lot of pitches and hardly swung at a ball out of the strike zone in the first three innings," Red Sox manager Bob Valentine said after Romero walked six and allowed nine runs, eight earned, in falling to 8-2 (while his ERA ballooned to 4.94).
"First 75 pitches we saw we made him get the ball over," Valentine said. "(Toronto's) Dave Magadan's a really good [hitting] coach; he has guys prepared and he also has guys make adjustments."
The Sox scored six runs in the first inning and never looked back, moving to five games over .500 for the first time this season. They have won nine of their last 11 (7-2 on the just-completed homestand) and 11 of their last 14. They have also won five straight series.
Adrian Gonzalez drove in three runs, Mike Aviles drove in two and David Ortiz hit his 399th career homer (21st this season, seventh in the last 12 games) to power the offense, as Romero suffered his first loss since May 13.
Jon Lester was the beneficiary of the support, taking a big first (after he allowed a run in the top of the inning) and going on to pitch seven full innings.
"Absolutely," Lester said of liking the cushion. "It takes the pressure of you, especially after they come out in the first and put one on the board. It's big to have our offense go out there and do that for you."
Lester, throwing the ball over the plate with a big lead, gave up loud home runs to Jose Bautista (No. 25, 13 in June) and Edwin Encarnacion (No. 22) but did what he had to do with the support.
After a leadoff double by Brett Lawrie and an RBI single by the next hitter, Colby Rasmus, Lester escaped the first, then watched his team break the game open (with a little help from the Blue Jays) to even his record at 5-5. He gave up cannon-shot home runs to Jose Bautista (No. 25, 13 in June, a club record for any single month) and Edwin Encarnacion (No. 22) but they didn't matter.
Romero, 4-0 in his last seven starts but carrying a 4.34 season ERA into the game despite his 8-1 record, threw six straight balls to start his day -- and it went downhill from there as he fell to 5-7 with a 7.12 ERA lifetime against Boston. He had won three straight starts against the Sox, dating back to last season's Boston collapse in September.
"Bad day," Romero said. "I didn't locate and didn't throw strikes. You can't give free passes to a team like that. You can't give free passes to anyone. Just a bad day.
"I was disappointed I didn't come through for the team. We had a chance to win the series. I just didn't do my job."
Asked what wasn't working, Romero quipped, "Everything. I didn't hit my spots. I was missing bad. It's disappointing. I'm disappointed and disappointed in myself."
Gonzalez, who has a five-game RBI streak (seven in that span) drove in a first-inning run with a hard grounder that was misplayed by first baseman Encarnacion and then had RBI singles in the third and fourth (extending his hitting streak to eight games). Aviles (43 RBIs, six in the last seven games) singled in a run in the first and doubled one home in the fourth.
Ortiz struck out in the eighth and got a standing ovation from the fans hoping to watch No. 400 before the team hit the road.
"It would have been nice to see David hit his 400th here, but I hope we see it in Seattle," Lester said.
NOTES: Rookie third baseman Will Middlebrooks went 1-for-11 and made two errors in his first three games since Kevin Youkilis was traded. But he drove in another run Wednesday, and is the first major leaguer with 36 RBIs in his first 44 big-league games since Wally Jooyner in 1986. ... Red Sox right fielder Darnell McDonald took a pinch-hit homer away from Kelly Johnson with a leap above the fence in the ninth. ... Sox righty Clay Buchholz rejoined the team after spending five days in the hospital with esophagitis and intestinal bleeding. "It was really scary," he said. "I've never felt the urge to pass out every time you stand up and I really didn't know what was going on. When the doctor said, 'Come to my office and we'll check you out' and I said, 'I can't get there. I can't walk.' It was pretty scary for about two days. I think they tried to downplay it, but when you're lying in ICU, where I'm from that means stuff's not going really well. When I got out of there the doctors were up front, saying it wasn't life-threatening at this point. They just had to keep me in the hospital to make sure I wasn't losing any more blood. He added he received "three or four pints of blood." ... Toronto righty Henderson Alvarez, who left Monday night's start (and win) with elbow tightness, checked out fine and is on schedule to start Saturday against the Angels. Later that night, Josh Beckett returns from the disabled list (shoulder) to pitch for Boston in Seattle. Both teams have four-game series over the weekend, both starting Thursday.