TORONTO – Canadian closer Jordan Romano has become almost automatic in finishing off victories for the Toronto Blue Jays this season.
But the 29-year-old righty from Markham, Ont., was knocked around for three runs in the ninth inning in a 5-4 loss to the Baltimore Orioles (76-69) on Sunday.
The last time Romano (5-4) had blown a save that resulted in a Toronto loss was almost three months ago, on June 21. He’s gone 34 for 39 in save opportunities this year and was hoping to match the team record for saves at home in a season of 22, set by Kelvim Escobar in 2002.
“He’s arguably the best in the league, and he just didn’t have it today,” interim Toronto manager John Schneider said. “He’s been so good, the whole year. I think his slider was a little bit flat. I think they were sitting on it. You’ve got to give them credit for getting a couple of knocks and working some walks.”
The Blue Jays (83-64) entered the ninth inning with a 3-2 advantage. But back-to-back singles, plus a walk, loaded the bases.
Rookie Adley Rutschman then singled to left to score a pair of runs. Finally, a Jesse Aguilar single scored a crucial third run because George Springer doubled home Cavan Biggio in the bottom of the inning to bring Toronto within a run.
Bo Bichette left Springer stranded with a game-ending groundout.
“I just think they had a plan going in against him,” Toronto catcher Danny Jansen said. “He went out there, and he competed. Stuff like that does happen.”
Jansen matched a career-high with his 13th homer with two out in the fourth inning to put the Blue Jays in front 2-1.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. provided a two-run cushion with a towering blast to left for his 29th homer in the seventh.
He had extended his hit streak to 12 games with a double to centre in the fifth.
The two homers, combined with a solid showing from starter Alek Manoah, had the home side on the verge of a sweep.
Instead, the Blue Jays’ terrific record in September dipped to 13-5. They will enter the final 15 games of the regular season 5 ½ behind the American League East-leading New York Yankees with a three-game set against the Yankees in Toronto, Sept. 26-28.
In his 98-pitch performance, before 41,311 fans at Rogers Centre, Manoah lasted six innings with four walks and five strikeouts, surrendering a run on four hits.
He struggled early but finished strong.
“I was able to minimize the damage,” Manoah said.
Toronto reliever Adam Cimber gave up a one-out solo homer to left from Aguilar in the eighth inning to close the gap to 3-2.
The Blue Jays snatched a 1-0 lead in the third inning. Orioles starter Dean Kremer hit Springer on the left elbow, the opposite elbow that kept him from earlier this summer’s lineup. He advanced to second when Guerrero walked and scored on Bichette’s single to centre.
The Blue Jays had Bichette on first and Guerrero on second with none out. The Orioles, however, pulled off a triple play when shortstop Jorge Mateo caught Matt Chapman’s line drive and had enough time to get Guerrero and Bichette.
Kremer lasted 5 ⅔ innings, giving up two runs on four hits with five walks and three strikeouts. Orioles reliever Joey Krehbiel (5-4) recorded the win.
With a day off on Monday, the Blue Jays kept catcher Alejandro Kirk (hip) out for a fifth consecutive game. In addition, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. was eligible to come off the 10-game disabled list but also enjoyed an extra day of rest.
The Blue Jays hit the road for a two-game series against the Philadelphia Phillies beginning Tuesday, followed by a four-game set in Tampa against the Rays. Ross Stripling (8-4) will face Phillies righty Kyle Gibson (10-6) in the opener.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 18, 2022.
Note to readers: Deletes reference to the Blue Jays’ seventh sweep this year.